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John J. Martinez, owned Gold Cross Ambulance Service

Dec. 31, 1951 – April 25, 2015

John J. Martinez, owner of Gold Cross Ambulance Service, died Saturday in Hospice Buffalo, Cheektowaga. He was 63.

As a child growing up with severe asthma in Niagara Falls, Mr. Martinez was no stranger to ambulances – an experience that sparked a love of ambulances for the rest of his life.

As a youngster, Mr. Martinez would turn his head every time he heard a siren, hung out at hospitals to watch the ambulances come and go, and told everyone who would listen that he would become an ambulance driver one day.

After graduating from South Park High School, he became a paramedic, working for what was then LaSalle Ambulance. In 1973, he bought two vehicles of his own and founded Gold Cross Ambulance in Kenmore. Even as owner and CEO, he drove the vehicles every day, and logged only one vacation during the 18 years the company was in business.

At its peak, Gold Cross employed 150 people and had 16 ambulances. The company provided medical services for Buffalo Sabres and Bills games, civic events in downtown Buffalo, and served the Town of Tonawanda, Buffalo, Kenmore, Cheektowaga and Lackawanna, .

Mr. Martinez was appointed to the Emergency Medical Services Board of New York State by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo to help craft laws and regulations. He also was also recognized by the former Columbus Hospital for providing medical care to underserved and indigent patients on Buffalo’s West Side.

After Gold Cross closed in 1991, Mr. Martinez earned a degree from Simmons Institute of Funeral Service in Syracuse. He was unable to work as a funeral director, however, because he lost his sight to diabetes shortly after graduation.

Survivors include his wife, the former Donna Brownson; a son, John; and a brother, James.

A memorial service will be held from 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesday in Lombardo Funeral Home, 3060 Abbott Road, Orchard Park.

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