Share this article

print logo

In memoriam / Beyond the names of a Western New York catastrophe

Ice hockey was part of MADELINE LINN LOFTUS' life whether she was in Buffalo, Minnesota or New Jersey.

Loftus, 24, of Parsippany, N.J., was on her way to Buffalo to reunite with 14 other alumnae of Buffalo State College women's ice hockey team for a Saturday game.

Known as "Maddy," she played forward for Buffalo State during her freshman and sophomore years from 2002 to 2004. She later transferred to St. Mary's University of Minnesota, where she played forward and studied marketing. She graduated from St. Mary's University in 2006.

As a teenager, Loftus was the only girl on the ice hockey team at Parsippany Hills High School.

"She was quite a trailblazer," said Principal Nancy Gigante.

"Madeline was an extremely confident individual. She knew who she was and as a result of that, she was a natural leader," said Terry Mannor, coach of the St. Mary's women's hockey team. "Everyone who met Madeline, even for a few minutes, will remember her. People knew her and respected her."

- Denise Jewell Gee

***

CAPT. MARVIN D. RENSLOW, 47, lived on a Florida cul-de-sac with his wife, a son who is a senior in high school, and a daughter, about 11, whom he often escorted home from the school bus.

"He was just a wonderful man, said Kathie Slawiak, who left the Buffalo area about 24 years ago. She and her husband, David, live about six houses away from the Renslow home in Lutz, Fla., which is near Tampa-St. Petersburg.

Records show Renslow, an Iowa native, was a small-business owner in Florida before joining Colgan Air in September 2005. He was among the first homeowners in their subdivision, which started to sprout about 12 years ago, Slawiak said.

Neighbors knew that Renslow's work often kept him away from home. But when he was home they would hear his drumming. He had been a drummer in high school, and his son had developed an interest in drums.

When neighbors on Glen Oak Lane gathered for a pig roast each year they would see Renslow's jovial side, Slawiak said. "He was just a friendly, outgoing man," she said.

- Matthew Spina

***

LORIN MAURER was flying in to attend the wedding of Keith Kuwik, brother of her boyfriend, Kevin Kuwik. It would be her first trip to Buffalo.

Maurer, 30, worked for Princeton University's Office of Development Priorities, and she worked closely with its athletic department. Kevin Kuwik is director of basketball operations at Butler University in Indianapolis.

"We've been talking about moving to the same place," Kuwik said. "She used to work at the NCAA in Indianapolis, and she was putting out some feelers there. The expectation was that, when the season was over, I would put out some feelers on the East Coast, coaching-wise.

Kuwik, former assistant basketball coach at Ohio University, served as an Army captain in Operation Iraqi Freedom. "Coming back from Iraq, and I didn't lose anybody," he said. "You think if you can get through Iraq unscathed, you wouldn't have something like this happen."

The bridal couple will place a red rose on the altar of St. Louis Church today in honor of Lorin Maurer.

- Jane Kwiatkowski

***

ZHAOFANG GUO, 53, of Amherst was killed in Thursday's crash.

Guo, who worked in the Ford Stamping Plant in Hamburg, was married to Ping Wang, a researcher at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

The couple's 15-year-old son, Kevin, is a high school sophomore. Mary E. Maloney, the family's attorney, said Guo's family is devastated.

"He was a really very nice and kind man," Maloney said. "I know he'll be greatly missed by his family."

Teri Doren, one of Guo's neighbors, said the family generally kept to itself, but Guo would usually smile and say hello to her when they saw each other outside. Guo regularly worked on his home and in the garden, said Doren, who described him as "a really sweet, kind man."

Guo received a master's degree in electrical engineering from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La., in 1992, according to a representative of the school's alumni association.

- Aaron Besecker

***

DAVID M. BORNER of Pendleton was supposed to leave for a Florida cruise with his family Friday morning. That is how he came to be on Flight 3407, a neighbor said.

Originally, Borner planned to drive both ways for his business trip in New Jersey. But he was afraid he'd get back too late to catch the early-morning flight planeto Florida for the family's cruise. So he hopped a flight.

"I was supposed to drive him to the airport" for his trip to Florida, said Richard E. Ganter, another longtime neighbor. "I called Cheryl [Borner's wife], and she told me what happened. I was very stunned."

The father of Michael, an eighth-grader at Starpoint Middle School named Michael and Nicole, a senior 12th-grader named Nicole at Starpoint High School, Borner was described as a family man who was friendly and outgoing. "He was very involved with his children," said Ruth Belling, who lives nearby with her husband, Theodore.

According to his neighbors, Borner worked out of his home for Kraft Foods.

It seemed like a good time in his life, one of his friend said. His daughter, a top student and soccer star, was graduating this year and was to play soccer at the Binghamton University.

Everyone in the family was excited about the cruise, friends said. And a big party was being planned for Borner's 50th birthday, on March 15.

"It's just so tragic," Belling said.

- Niki Cervantes

***

NICOLE KORCZYKOWSKI, whose parents live in Eden, worked for a NewYork City-area investment firm. After attending Nichols School, she graduated in 2001 from the University of at Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, where she had a concentration in finance. Since then, she's been living in New York City, and has been working for various finance firms in that area.

- Aaron Besecker

***

MARY "BELLE" PETTYS, the third of 10 siblings in her West Seneca family, got engaged in December on her 50th birthday and she was to be married in June. Pettys was returning from a brief business trip to New Jersey.

Patrick Pettys remembered his sister as "a joy to be around, funny, intelligent, talkative."

She attended Mount Mercy Academy. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Canisius College and went on to a brief stint writing obituaries for the Courier-Express.

She later spent 25 years working for BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and since 2006 had been employed by TriZetto, a health care company. She leaves behind nine siblings and her father, Howard.

"Every morning since my mother's death, she would go to Tim Hortons, get a coffee for herself and my father, and bring it over to his house, sit there, have coffee and then she would come home and do her work. Not a day went by when she missed it," Patrick Pettys said. "She was a saint."

- Colin Dabkowski

***

RONALD GONZALEZ, director of a youth programin NewJersey, was flying home to visit family in the Buffalo area.

Gonzalez formerly led Alianza Latina, a health outreach organization focused on AIDS/HIV in Buffalo's Latino community.

"He lived for his work and for the community," said Dennis R. Pfaffenbach, a member of the the organization's board of directors who worked alongside Gonzalez before joining the board. Gonzalez, 44, was director of the Youth Services Program based in the New Brunswick, N.J., schools, according to the Star Ledger's Web site.

In a 2005 Buffalo News story about a National Latino AIDS Awareness Day event, Gonzalez described the efforts of Alianza Latina in Buffalo. "What we are trying to do in the community is prevention work," Gonzalez said that day.

- Aaron Besecker

***

REBECCA LYNNE SHAW grew up in a suburb of Seattle, home of the headquarters for Boeing Co., and decided in her senior year in high school that she wanted to fly.

She was the first officer on the Continental Connection flight that crashed late Thursday.

Her voice, communicating with the air traffic controllers at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, was the last sound heard from Flight 3407 before it crashed into a Clarence Center home.

Shaw, 24, had joined Colgan Air, in January 2008 and had flown 2,244 hours with the airline. Records show she was certified as a flight instructor. She had been a high school athlete and a camp counselor.

She lived in Maple View, Wash., with her husband, Troy. They had just returned to Maple View from Virginia.

As her husband traveled to Buffalo on Friday, her mother, Lynn Morris, told an Associated Press reporter that her daughter loved to fly.

"We love her and miss her terribly," she said.

- Matthew Spina

***

As the cantor of Williamsville's Temple Beth Am, SUSAN WEHLEfound a way to merge three passions - people, music and spirituality.

Inspired by a visit to a seriously ill friend, she recorded a CD called "Songs of Healing and Hope."

Determined to boost grass-roots liturgical involvement, Wehle organized classes for congregants on leading prayer services.

And to honor the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a civil rights activist, she urged congregants to perform good deeds.

"Her concern for others, her love of the life of the spirit, was infectious," said Irwin A. Tanenbaum, the Temple Beth Am rabbi. "Any who knew Cantor Wehle came under her spell."

Wehle, 55, completed her theological training while raising two sons - Jonah and Jake - and she also had a degree in acting. She performed with theater companies in Buffalo, Chicago and New York, and conducted choirs in the U.S., Canada and Israel.

The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Wehle was a cantorial soloist at Temple Sinai in Amherst for nearly 10 years before joining Temple Beth Am in 2002.

In addition to her musical skills, Wehle was noted for blending a sometimes gritty, down-to-earth personality with a soaring sense of religiosity. "She made spirituality joyous," said Judy E. Henn, Beth Am's vice president of worship.

Wehle, 55, was returning home from a vacation in Costa Rica when she died in Thursday's plane crash. Her voice was stilled, but her message - expressed in a recent edition of the temple newsletter - lives on.

"May we all work, in whatever way suits us, toward "tikkun olam,' the healing of the world," she said.

- Peter Simon

There are no comments - be the first to comment