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Merrell A. Lane, helped save Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from closing

Aug. 5, 1947 – Aug. 16, 2014

Merrell A. Lane, of Wheatfield, the longtime leader of a group that helped save the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from closing, died Saturday in Strong Memorial Hospital Palliative Care in Rochester, after a lengthy illness. He was 67.

Mr. Lane was born in Meadville, Pa., and moved with his family to Niagara Falls when he was 3 months old. His family opened the Lane Funeral Home.

Mr. Lane graduated from LaSalle High School in 1965. He attended Niagara County Community College and graduated from the Simmons School of Mortuary Science in 1967.

He served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, 1st Cavalry Division, in Vietnam, from 1969 until his honorable discharge in August 1970.

Mr. Lane became the second-generation owner of the funeral home. He retired in 2010.

In 1995, the Niagara Falls Area Chamber of Commerce asked him to serve as chairman of a new committee, the Niagara Military Affairs Council, to lead efforts to keep the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station off the federal base closure list.

“When (former Chamber President) Chuck Steiner first talked to me about getting involved, I didn’t know it was going to turn into such an important organization, not only for homeland security, but for the area,” Mr. Lane said in a 2004 interview.

NIMAC helped keep the Niagara Falls location off the closing list in 1995 and again in 2005, rallying support from political leaders, business owners and community members around the importance of the base and its jobs. Mr. Lane remained chairman until stepping down in June 2013 for health reasons, but he remained vice chairman.

Numerous community groups honored Mr. Lane for his work during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process, known as BRAC. The Buffalo News named him one of its Outstanding Citizens in 2006.

In 2008, Mr. Lane was chosen by N.A. Schwartz, then-chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, to represent New York State on Schwartz’s newly formed Air Force Civic Leaders Group.

Mr. Lane was a 53-year member of Bacon Memorial Presbyterian Church, where he served as an elder. He was a member and former district governor of the New York State Funeral Directors Association, a member and former president of the Erie Niagara Funeral Directors Association, and a member of the Niagara County Funeral Directors Association.

He also was a 42-year member and former president of the Niagara Falls Kiwanis Club, and he served on the board of directors of the Salvation Army and the Niagara Beautification Commission.

He is survived by his wife of 40 years, the former Patricia Wasley; two daughters, Jennifer Overholt and Deborah Townsend; his brother, Robert Jr.; and three granddaughters.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Bacon Memorial Presbyterian Church, 166 59th St., Niagara Falls.