Thomas J. Wetzler, a retired cabinetmaker and survivor of some of the fiercest
naval battles of World War II, died Saturday in Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a brief illness. He was 85.
A Buffalo native, Mr. Wetzler served as a coxswain aboard the USS Astoria and participated in the battles of Midway, the Solomon Islands and Coral Sea. During the Battle of Savo Island in 1942, the Astoria was shelled and set ablaze, forcing Mr. Wetzler and crewmates to abandon ship. More than 250 of his fellow crewmen were killed during the battle.
After the war, he received training as an electrical technician.
A cabinetmaker, Mr. Wetzler was a 25-year employee of Wurlitzer Co. in North Tonawanda. He retired in the late 1960s after the plant closed. After retirement, he worked as a security guard and in maintenance at the Audubon Golf Course.
Before enlisting in the Navy, he was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
His wife, Alma Doran Wetzler, died in 2002.
He was a member of Amherst Township Post 416, Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Survivors include three daughters, Mary Ann Hum of Riverside, Calif., Judith Militello of Williamsville and Betty Grudzien of West Falls; a son, Thomas of Montour Falls; two sisters, Mary Ann Vuich of Hamburg and Josephine Weber of Lady Lake, Fla.; 11 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Perna-Pellegrino Funeral Home, 1671 Maple Road, Amherst. Burial will be in Bear Ridge Cemetery, Pendleton.