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Thomas J. Pilat, animal control officer, ‘King of Karaoke’

Sept. 23, 1972 – June 10, 2015

Thomas J. Pilat, longtime animal control officer in the Town of Tonawanda, died Wednesday at Hospice Buffalo in Cheektowaga after a long battle with small-cell lung cancer. He was 42.

Born in Buffalo, Mr. Pilat graduated from Kenmore East High School in 1990. After graduation, he started assisting the veterinarians at Brighton-Eggert Animal Clinic.

His love for animals led Mr. Pilat to join the town in 1994 as one of its two animal control officers. He served in the role for 21 years, the first six years in a part-time capacity and 15 years full-time. During those years, he improved the town’s computer system for tracking and licensing animals.

But Mr. Pilat was perhaps best known as the driver behind the wheel of the town’s animal control vehicle during the annual Memorial Day parade. With the hit 2000 song “Who Let the Dogs Out?” blaring from a loudspeaker, he inched his way along Delaware Avenue with his niece, Lily, and godson, Zachary, throwing candy and waving to bystanders.

When he was 18, Mr. Pilat started TJ’s Absolute Sound, a wedding DJ and karaoke business with a regular Friday night appearance at Keglers in the Transit Lanes. The bowling alley’s street sign late last week memorialized Mr. Pilat, calling him the “King of Karaoke.”

“He was a big guy and he had a big presence about him,” said Town of Tonawanda Police Capt. Joseph Carosi. “You knew when Tom was in the room. He had a loud, booming, like a DJ-ish kind of sound to him. He could’ve been on FM radio all day long; that was the kind of voice that he had.”

Mr. Pilat went on sick leave in August and over 800 people turned out at a benefit fundraiser for him in January at Madonna Council Knights of Columbus in North Tonawanda.

Survivors include his mother, Florence; his father, Ronald; and a sister, Tammy Magiera.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in The Chapel, 500 CrossPoint Parkway, Getzville.

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