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

GERARD "GERRY" NIEWOOD, 64, a noted jazz musician who played blew saxophone and flute with Chuck Mangione and other artists for more than four decades, was arriving for a Mangione date at Kleinhans Music Hall.

Niewood was a Rochester native who at 14 played baritone saxophone on Mangione's first record, "Have I Told You So," reissued as "B'bye" on Mangione's "Children of Sanchez" album.

Niewood, who lived in New Jersey, had Buffalo roots since graduating from the University at Buffalo in 1965 with a bachelor of science degree. He graduated from Rochester's the Eastman School of Music in 1970.

He played frequently at the original Tralfamadore Cafe in the 1970s, and returned frequently to play Buffalo venues.

Niewood's name was heard outside jazz circles in Simon & Garfunkel's "Live in Central Park,"

where Art Garfunkel named him on stage. Niewood also was a frequent performer at Radio City Music Hall, and with Liza Minelli's orchestra.

He leaves his wife, Gurly, and his son, Adam.

- Andrew Z. Galarneau

***

JEAN SRNECZ, an executive for a book and entertainment distributor who lived in New Jersey, was coming to town to visit family, according to Publishers Weekly.

Born in 1949, she was a 1971 graduate of D'Youville College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in history. She also earned a master's degree in political science from the University at Buffalo and, later, a master's degree in finance from New York University.

She had worked for Baker & Taylor, one of the nation's top book suppliers, since 1975 and held the title of senior vice president of merchandising.

Srnecz was described as "the face of B&T to the publishing industry," by Arnie Wright, the company's president.

"She was instrumental in carrying out all our initiatives, but most importantly she was a true friend to those she worked with," Wright said. "If you start a list with the great people in the world, she is at the top."

- Janice Habuda

***

BETHANY KUSHNER had spent the past several weeks in California, where she chronicled her adventures for friends back home through photos on her Facebook page.

The return of the 19-year-old Angola resident was eagerly awaited Thursday. A friend had written at 10:28 p.m.: "when r u gonna be home?"

Kushner was a 2007 graduate of Eden Junior-Senior High School. She attended Keuka College for a year, where she competed on the tennis team, and planned to complete her college education at Buffalo State College.

Friday, postings reflected the grief of her friends, near and far.

"Rest in peace Beth," wrote one. "Even though we were friends while you were at Keuka for that short time you were one awesome person you will be missed."

She's survived by her parents, Lynn and Julius; a sister, Megan; and a brother, Joe.

- Janice Habuda

***

COLEMAN MELLETT, 34, was heading to Buffalo to perform with jazz flugelhorn whiz Chuck Mangione.

The jazz guitarist lived in East Brunswick, N.J., with his wife, jazz singer Jeanie Bryson, the daughter of Dizzy Gillespie. They met when he played guitar in her backup band.

They often performed together, and were scheduled to headline a Valentine's Day gala tonightsat, in Trenton, N.J. Mellett, a native of Natick, Mass., was hired by Mangione after the trumpeter spotted him on a Manhattan cable television show. Mellett has played with Mangione since 1999, touring the world.

Mellett's musical career began when he talked his parents out of piano lessons - and into giving him a guitar.

"A guitar's a lot easier to carry around than a piano,e Mellett joked to the Newark Star-Ledger last year. eI love that you can play chords and melody, that it covers a lot of styles, has infinite possibilities."

Mellett is survived by his wife.

- Andrew Z. Galarneau

***

JOHN G. ROBERTS III, a Lewiston native who lived in India, was returning home for an overdue visit with family members.

"It's sad because we all haven't seen him for such a long time, and everyone was patiently waiting for him and [Flight 3407] just crashed like it was nothing," said Chelsea Gagliardo, Roberts' niece.

Roberts, 48, was the oldest of five children and grewup in Lewiston.

He lived in the area off and on, traveling overseas often, Gagliardo said.

"The last time I saw him was probably over a year ago," she added. "I was so excited to see him."

Roberts had been an active member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Niagara Falls when he lived in the area.

Roberts' father, John Jr., is the owner of Apple Granny's, a popular restaurant on Center Street, the main drag in the Village of Lewiston.

"I grew up in Lewiston and John Roberts [the father] has always been a fixture here," said Bridget Schroeder, owner of the neighboring Village Bake Shoppe. "He's 100 percent supportive of the community and area as a whole, and takes great pride in his family and community. I hate to think of something like this happening to this family. It's a real tragedy.

Sandy Hays Meis, consulting director of Lower Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

"Especially, with the nature of their (restaurant) business, the Roberts touch so many people here in Western New York," she said. "We all share their grief and pain, and wish them peace."

- Emma Sapong, Teresa Sharp

***

From the time he was a kid, JOSEPH J .ZUFFOLETTO loved airplanes. "He had his pilot's license before he had his driver's license," said his sister, Jaime Rose of Mesa, Ariz. "If anyone loved to fly, it was him."

Born in Rochester, Zuffoletto's parents, Roselle and JimZuffoletto, moved the family to San Diego to join relatives in a warmer climate.

A bright guy with a passion for science fiction, Joe Zuffoletto graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and worked for awhile flying cargo routes, his sister said.

Eventually, he became a commercial pilot. Zuffoletto, 27, joined Colgan Air in September 2005, and recently was promoted to captain.

He rented an apartment with two friends in Jamestown, where Colgan stationed him.

Frequently, he flew into Buffalo to see his grandmother in Cheektowaga. When his sister saw the crash on TV Thursday night, she called her grandmother, who lives near the airport, to make sure she was OK. Next, Rose called and texted her brother, but got to no response.

Zuffoletto died while flying as a passenger.

- Mary B. Pasciak

***

CLAY YARBER didn't like to fly. He hadn't flown in years, his former wife said, but worked up the courage to book a flight from his home in Riverside, Calif., to visit some friends in Buffalo.

Until Friday, Yarber cheated death. The U.S. Marine had served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War and earned two Purple Hearts among his other service awards, said ex-wife Shari Ingram, who lives in Largo, Fla.

Yarber, 62, had been shot, his lungs filled with blood, Ingram said. He had received shrapnel wounds and other service-related injuries that would haunt him throughout his life.

But he lived. He settled in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area for about 30 years. He sang and played guitar for local bands, such as Grey Imprint and Powerplay in the 1980s, said Ingram, who was married to Yarber for four years and had a son with him.

"I can't remember him ever flying in all the years we've been married or ever since, and he takes one flight?" Ingram said. eWhat kind of odds is that?"

Yarber is survived by a son, Christopher, who lived with his father this past year in Riverside; three other daughters, the youngest of whom is 15; and his mother, Ingram said.

- Sandra Tan

***

JEROME "JERRY" KRASUSKI, 53, was returning home to Cheektowaga from a one day business trip. He was a program manager for Northrop Grumman Amherst Systems, a defense contractor in Williamsville, where he was employed for more than 20 years. Three of his colleagues also died in the crash.

He was remembered Friday as a loving, thoughtful, family man who took care of his mother, Stephanie, and always made time for elderly relatives. "He had a heart of gold," said a cousin, Karen Kras.

"I mentioned the other day that I needed a lock for my basement door. He disappeared, came back and said "I had this one in my tool box.' He was always doing little things like that for everyone."

Krasuski was a skilled woodworker who enjoyed building furniture, loved wildlife and had a particular soft spot for "The Three Stooges."

Krasuski and his wife, Justine, were married for 29 years. He walked daughter Stacy Krukowski down the aisle in 2006 and became grandfather to his first grandchild, Ava, four months ago. He also leaves behind a brother, Norman, of North Tonawanda and a sister, Carol Wind, of Michigan.

- Samantha Maziarz Christmann

***

Fort Erie resident DON MCDONALD was the go-to man when things went wrong.

McDonald, 48, was the technical manager at the Pharmetics Inc. plant in Fort Erie, Ont., and had been with the company for 26 years, said Peter Lucyshyn, vice president of quality operations.

His job was to troubleshoot equipment problems and drug formulations for the Jarvis Street plant, one of two that manufactures overthe- counter drugs for the Montreal-based company, Lucyshyn said. Pharmetics is one of the largest private-label, pharmaceutical companies in Canada.

"Don was returning from New Jersey, where he was reviewing some packaging equipment that the company was planning to buy," Lucyshyn said. "We are all in shock over this tragic incident, and our hearts and condolences go out to the family."

McDonald leaves behind a wife and young daughter, Lucyshyn said. He worked long hours, enjoyed golfing and traveled periodically for the company, he added. Grief counselors met with employees Friday to help them cope with the loss of a hard-working colleague and friend.

- Sandra Tan

***

Skydiving. Check. Wakeboarding. Check. ELLYCE KAUSNER had a mental list of things to do in life, and methodically did them.

A week or so ago she went swimming with dolphins, and no who knew her was surprised.

"She had more life in her than 10 of us," said her father, John. Known as "Elly," Kausner, 24, grew up in Clarence in a tight-knit family for whom religious faith is a central part of their lives. She graduated from Clarence High School and Canisius College, and was a second-year student at Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. At Canisius, she won the tuition award given to a senior with the most potential for the study of law.

She was traveling home to visit her family and boyfriend before final exams. She also had three nephews who wanted her as their Valentine at school.

Friends and family described her as bright, bubbly and magnetic. They said she was devoted to her family and loved animals, especially her two cats.

"She was the life of the party, and enjoyed being the center of attention," her father said.

He saw her just a few days ago in Florida while on vacation with his wife, Marilyn. As they parted, their last words to each other were, "I love you."

- Henry L. Davis

***

MATILDA QUINTERO had been a flight attendant for only a year, but she enjoyed every day of her work.

"She was all excited about her job. She finally got the job she wanted," Alison Eckert, a neighbor of hers in Woodbridge, N.J., told a local newspaper there. "She was a very nice lady.

She always looked on the bright side."

Quintero, 57, was hired by Colgan Air in May 2008. She owned a home in Woodbridge, where she lived with her mother, who is in her 90s, and her daughter Cecilia Quintero, 21.

Cecilia told the New Jersey Star-Ledger that the family shared her mother's joy in her new job. At the same time, though, "We always worried every day," Cecilia said. Matilda Quintero's husband died about a decade ago, according to the Star-Ledger.

Quintero's other daughter, Catherine Quintero, 32, is a senior at Drew University in Madison, N.J.

- Mary B. Pasciak

***

DAVID M. BORNER of Pendleton was supposed to leave for a Florida cruise with his family Friday morning.That ishowhe 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

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