Anthony J. Certo, 87, of St. Lucie West, Fla., a former chief judge in the City of Niagara Falls and a decorated World War II Army veteran, died Sunday at Treasure Coast Hospice House in Fort Pierce, Fla., after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease.
Born in Niagara Falls, the son of Peter and the former Catherine Antonucci, Mr. Certo attended local schools before going on to graduate from Niagara University and then St. John's University School of Law in New York City where he earned his law degree.
In his early life, Mr. Certo and his siblings worked for their father in what was to become Certo Brothers Distributing Co. – a beer wholesale distribution business – which expanded outside of Niagara Falls in the early 1960s. The business now is based in West Seneca and covers all of Western New York, employing more than 300 people.
During World War II, Mr. Certo served in the 88th Army Infantry Division. He received the Good Conduct Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three Bronze Service Stars along with the World War II Victory Medal and the Honorable Service Lapel Button from the war.
He served from October 1943 to January 1946.
Mr. Certo began his legal career in 1954 and worked on the board of the Niagara Falls Corporation Counsel. He also maintained a private practice of civil and criminal law.
In 1974, Mr. Certo was appointed Niagara Falls city court judge and then re-elected to that post several times. He was later appointed the city's chief judge, a position from which he retired in 1995.
Innovations by Mr. Certo modernized the court's business in Niagara Falls – such as computerizing court records – and made the court a model for other courts statewide.
After retiring, Mr. Certo continued hearing cases as a judicial hearing officer.
Mr. Certo was an avid golfer and member of the Niagara Frontier Country Club in Youngstown. He also belonged to the Knights of Columbus Council in Niagara Falls. Family members said Mr. Certo enjoyed racquetball, playing cards and spending time with family and friends.
He is survived by his wife of 54 years, the former Rita Cukierski; two daughters, Karen Anne and Elizabeth A.; a son, Anthony P.; and two sisters, Elizabeth Pfleger and Mary Rolle.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday from St. Vincent DePaul Parish at St. Leo's Church, 2748 Military Road, Niagara Falls, with the Rev. Andrew Lauricella officiating. It will be preceded by a 9:30 a.m. funeral service from the M.J. Colucci & Son Niagara Funeral Chapel, 2730 Military Road, Niagara Falls.