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Edward C. Keller, E. Aurora businessman Jan. 8, 1911 -- Dec. 28, 2006

Edward C. Keller, a longtime East Aurora resident and former businessman, died Thursday in Greenfield Health Care Facility in Lancaster. He was 95.

Mr. Keller was the former owner of the Western Auto store on Main Street in East Aurora. He retired in 1975.

Prior to opening the store in 1949, he worked for 20 years at the Chevrolet Plant on River Road in the Town of Tonawanda. In 1991, he was invited to run the last brake drum and hub assembly off the "Bullards," an old machine the plant was retiring. He had been the first man to operate the machine, which was used in World War II to make ring gears for engines used in B-17 bombers. Mr. Keller cultivated the nickname "Poor Ed" by joking about his penny-pinching ways while sharing stories of his recurring successes in stock market investments. He was a self-taught investor who began buying stocks in the 1920s by financing joint purchases with his friends.

Mr. Keller and his lifelong friend, Ken Fones, were drivers in the annual trotting races during Race Day weekend in East Aurora for almost 25 years. They also took on the responsibility of getting horses and drivers for the sulky racing heats that began in 1974 to celebrate the village's past in horse racing. Mr. Keller last drove in the event in 1993, at the age of 82. He was honored in 1996 with a plaque for his years of participation in the event.

He and Fones jointly owned seven trotters, which they raised and trained. Several raced at Batavia Downs and Hamburg Raceway.

Mr. Keller was a member of Lodge 995 of the Free & Accepted Masons, the East Aurora Fire Company, the Harness & Racing Association, the East Aurora Chamber of Commerce, the East Aurora Historical Society and East Aurora Senior Citizens. His wife of 61 years, the former Marie West, died in 1998.

A memorial service will be at noon Tuesday in Wood Funeral Home on Main Street in East Aurora.

[FLYNN]

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