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Francis A.C. Lema, police captain, WWII veteran

Feb. 19, 1926 – March 16, 2015

Seeking a secure position to support his young family, Francis A.C. Lema changed careers to work for the Buffalo Police Department in a move that turned out to be more of a vocation than a job.

Mr. Lema rose through the ranks to captain, serving in some of the city’s busiest precincts.

An Army veteran of World War II who had served in combat in Europe, Mr. Lema died Monday in the hospice unit at Kenmore Mercy Hospital after a lengthy illness. He was 89.

“He had worked in the auto industry, but he wanted the security and benefits of a good job and he became a patrolman in 1953,” said James A. Lema, who in time followed in his father’s footsteps and became a city police officer.

Mr. Lema was assigned to Precinct 14 at Main Street and Mercer Avenue and later served in Precinct 3 on Franklin Street. He was then promoted to desk lieutenant, followed by a promotion to patrol lieutenant, working at various precincts throughout the city and in the Police Academy.

In 1974, Mr. Lema rose to the rank of captain and served at Precinct 12 on Genesee Street for many years before transferring to Precinct 13 on Hertel Avenue.

“He was my very first captain. ... I can tell you that he personified professionalism in the Buffalo Police Department,” Capt. Mark Makowski said.

James Lema said his father’s dedication to police work inspired him to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“When I first started with the Police Department as a 911 complaint writer, my father was briefly serving as the captain of communications, and he was my first captain,” the son said. “He was my boss at work and at home.”

Mr. Lema retired in 1988 after 35 years of service.

His hobbies included small-engine repairs, and he was known as the go-to guy among officers who needed mowers and snowblowers fixed.

He was a past member of the Lieutenants and Captains Association and the Italian American Police Association.

Mr. Lema was married for nearly 61 years to the former Sara Marotta, who died in 2013.

In addition to his son James, he is survived by two daughters, Margaret, and Mary Jarmus; another son, Anthony; four granddaughters and a great-granddaughter.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Monday in Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 85 Dakota St.

– Lou Michel

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