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Bertram G. Chalmer, 95, innovative educator ; Dec. 24, 1916 -- April 6, 2012

Bertram G. Chalmer, an innovative educator and community leader, died Friday in his Amherst home after a lengthy illness. He was 95.

Mr. Chalmer served as principal of Buffalo School 31 for 18 years and was the first educator to introduce open-classroom techniques in the Buffalo school system. He also mentored many faculty and staff, some who became administrators themselves.

Born in Buffalo, Mr. Chalmer graduated from Fosdick-Masten Park High School and attended the University of Indiana before enlisting in the Army Signal Corps in 1941. He served in the Pacific and, following the war, remained in the Army Reserve Corps, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1968.

Mr. Chalmer obtained his bachelor's degree in 1947 and a master's degree in education in 1952, both from the University of Buffalo. While completing his master's degree, he worked as a science and physical education teacher at Eden Central High School, where he was the founding coach of their football program. He became assistant principal at Schools 19 and 75 before becoming principal of School 31 in 1959.

Mr. Chalmer was involved in community camping for much of his career. While working as a counselor at Jewish Fresh Air Camp, he met Clara Cooper, a fellow counselor and educator, whom he later married. For many years after World War II, the Chalmers were partners in running Camp Arrowhead, a summer camp in Allegany State Park.

Mr. Chalmer served in leadership roles in many Jewish and other community organizations. Having achieved the rank of Eagle Scout as a youngster, he remained active in Scouting and served as co-chairman of the Scajaquada District. As a lifelong member of Temple Beth El, he was a founder of the synagogue's credit union and served as president of the congregation. He served on the boards of the local chapter of B'nai Brith and on committees of the Jewish Federation.

After retiring in 1977 to Florida, Mr. Chalmer served on several committees of the United Jewish Appeal and as regional coordinator for Serving Health Insurance Needs of the Elderly (SHINE), covering seven Florida counties. He also was a volunteer mentor for student teachers at Florida Atlantic University.

Mr. Chalmer and his wife were world travelers and enjoyed Elderhostel. They returned to Buffalo a few years ago.

In addition to his wife of 68 years, survivors include three sons, Paul, Steven and Bruce.

Services will be held at 3:30 p.m. today in Amherst Memorial Chapel, 281 Dodge Road, Getzville.