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Howard J. Willson Sr., founded HowBill Auto Parts chain

Oct. 20, 1920 – Jan. 20, 2015

Howard J. Willson Sr., of Elma, founder of a chain of auto parts stores, died Jan. 20 in Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a short illness. He was 94.

Born in Elma, he was a graduate of St. Vincent de Paul School and worked at Ford Motor Co. before serving in the Army in India during World War II.

Returning from service, he started HowBill Auto Parts Inc. in 1947 with his brother Bill and was known throughout New York State as a service and parts specialist for Jeeps and other four-wheel drive vehicles.

The company, which continues to be operated by his family, expanded to a fourth location in 1993. He retired in 2008.

Mr. Willson sponsored cars on local tracks and enjoyed watching them race. He also enjoyed hunting at his cabin in Freedom.

He was a former president of the Home School Association at St. Vincent de Paul School and was an honorary Spring Brook volunteer firefighter.

His wife of 47 years, the former Mildred Suchy, died in 1994. He was remarried to the former Marie Gutkowski in 1995.

In addition to his wife, survivors include six daughters, Kathleen Winde, Jean, Rita Ferri, Mary Sanderson, Lauren Korn and Jennifer Smith; six sons, Howard Jr., Jeffrey, Mark, Michael, Eric and Thomas; a stepdaughter, Yvonne Fisher; 36 grandchildren; and many great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Saturday in St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 6441 Seneca St., Elma.

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