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Ralph S. Citron, DDS Aug. 15, 1920 -- Dec. 29, 2005

A service for Ralph S. Citron, DDS, former dentist for Buffalo's teams in the American and National hockey leagues and designer of a mask used to protect the face of NHL goaltender Jacques Plante, will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Forest Lawn Chapel.

The New York City native, who served as dental director and health commissioner for Erie County for many years, died Thursday at his home in Pompano Beach, Fla., after a long illness. He was 85.

During World War II, he attained the rank of lieutenant commander while serving as a pilot aboard the USS Saratoga, the first aircraft carrier to sail into Tokyo Bay at the end of hostilities.

He was a graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City and earned an undergraduate degree at the age of 16 from the University of Buffalo, according to family members. He later graduated from UB's dental school.

Dr. Citron had an active private practice for many years. He then worked as dental director for the county Department of Social Services and later as acting health commissioner and health commissioner during the Rutkowski and Gorski administrations. He retired in 1990.

The mask he designed for Plante was used by the Hall of Fame goalie on an everyday basis and became the prototype for those used by goalies today to protect them from facial injuries, scars and loss of teeth inflicted by hockey pucks. He had been working on a protective mask for Buffalo's AHL team when a member told Plante about it.

Plante, who had tested another mask previously, adopted Dr. Citron's pioneering version.

Dr. Citron was a co-founder of the 100 Club of Buffalo and served as the club's president in 1967. The club provides help and support to widows of police officers killed in the line of duty.

He spent summers at his home, called Lemon Acres, in Port Colborne, Ont., for more than 45 years. In later years, he spent summers there and winters at Pompano Beach.

Surviving are his wife, Bernice Kahn Citron; two daughters, Penny Lippman of Coral Gables, Fla., and Patti Jo Burr of Manhattan; three sons, Peter of Coral Gables, Fla., and Douglas Citron and Gregory L. Davis, both of Snyder; a sister, Millie Carp of Pasadena, Calif.; 14 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.


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