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Norman J. Schihl, NASCAR racer, truck driver; March 29, 1926 -- Feb. 16, 2012

Norman John Schihl, a retired NASCAR driver, died Thursday in Williamsville Suburban Nursing Home. He was 85.

Born in Welland, Ont., Mr. Schihl graduated from Fort Erie High School and attended St. Jerome's College in Kitchener, Ont.

He worked as a fabricator and mechanic at Fleet Industries and Twin Coach before starting his own fabrication and repair company. He also owned his own distribution company.

Mr. Schihl moved to Buffalo in 1956, when he began racing Sportsman Division cars and motorcycles in Southern Ontario and Buffalo's Civic Stadium.

The same year, he started racing in NASCAR's new stock car convertible division as an independent, competing against Detroit factory-sponsored cars. His No. 3 red and white 1956 Ford convertible finished in the top third of all drivers.

In 1957, he stopped NASCAR racing and started driving trucks and heavy equipment during work on the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston. After that, he continued to drive trucks in the Buffalo area. His last employer was Dallas Mavis.

Mr. Schihl was a member of Truck Drivers Local 449.

He also was a golf pro in Hamilton, Ont., and an avid tennis player and bicycle rider.

He played hockey for the Fort Erie Old Timers into his 60s, accompanying the team on many trips to compete in Europe.

A water sports enthusiast, he owned a ski boat and enjoyed water skiing. He also enjoyed white-water rafting throughout the United States and Canada, including the Lower Niagara River.

Mr. Schihl owned a 30-foot sailboat for more than 20 years and was a longtime member of the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club and the U.S. Power Squadron.

A 50-year member of the Lederhosen Ski Club, Mr. Schihl was a National Ski Patrol member for 27 years at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville beginning in 1961.

He also was a 50-year member of the Fort Erie Knights of Columbus.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Michael Catholic Church, 310 Central Ave., Fort Erie, Ont.