W. James Huggins Jr., of Youngstown, longtime president and general manager of Elmlawn Cemetery in the Town of Tonawanda, died unexpectedly Saturday in Erie County Medical Center. He was 82.
Born in Buffalo, he was a 1946 graduate of Kenmore High School and attended Buffalo State Teachers College. He served in the Navy during the Korean War.
Returning from service, Mr. Huggins was a sales representative for a wallpaper distributor, then started a wholesale food business with a friend. After his partner's death, he sold the business and began his career at Elmlawn in 1969 as assistant to the president.
He was named general manager in 1973 and served as president for 37 years until he was named chairman of the board last March. About 10 years ago, he introduced and guided a controversial lease of unused cemetery property for a business park to insure Elmlawn's financial stability. He had retired from the cemetery Friday.
A mentor to other area cemetery directors, Mr. Huggins was a past president of the Western New York Cemetery Association and a past president and director of the New York State Association of Cemeteries. He also was a past director of the Kenmore-Tonawanda Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Kenmore Rotary Club, where he was a Paul Harris Fellow.
A boating enthusiast, he was a past commodore of the Sandy Beach Yacht Club and a longtime member of the Youngstown Yacht Club and the Blue Gavel, a worldwide organization of past commodores. He also was a member of the Tuscarora Yacht Club.
Surviving are his wife of 25 years, the former Donna Reed; three sons, William J. III, David J. and Gabriel Infantino; and a sister, Betty Hartley.
A prayer service will follow calling hours from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Sunrise Mausoleum in Elmlawn Cemetery, 3939 Delaware Ave., Town of Tonawanda.