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Donald C. Ratzel, fishing guide to the stars, WWII veteran

Sept. 5, 1926 – Jan. 6, 2016

For 60 years, if you wanted to find the best fishing on Lake Erie or the Upper Niagara River, Donald C. Ratzel was your man.

Local and visiting celebrities were among the clients who boarded Mr. Ratzel’s boat, The Five R’s, to be taken to a prime fishing spot in the waters of the Buffalo area.

Mr. Ratzel died Wednesday in Mercy Hospital after becoming ill while out to dinner with his family. He was 89.

His day job was as a machinist for Elmar Industries of Buffalo, where he worked for more than 20 years until he retired in 1989. Then he was a security guard at Rich Marina for 18 years, which was handy, because that’s where his boat was docked.

But it was on the water where Mr. Ratzel was in his element.

At the age of 5, the Riverside native was caught by his mother repeatedly sneaking off to fish at the foot of Ontario Street.

He graduated from McKinley High School and entered the service during World War II. Not surprisingly, given his attraction to the water, he served in the Merchant Marine in the North Atlantic for two years.

In 1946, he obtained a captain’s license and was a fishing guide on local waters for six decades.

Among the well-known people who fished with Mr. Ratzel were singer Perry Como, two-time world featherweight boxing champion Willie Pep, and Buffalo Sabres stars Danny Gare and Jim Lorentz.

He also met Audrey Haas, whom he married in 1946 on the Niagara River, aboard a cabin cruiser called the Florence K, owned by William J. Simon of Buffalo’s Simon Pure Brewery.

Mr. Ratzel also enjoyed hunting and was a member of the George Washington Fishing and Camping Club in Buffalo. He moved to Lawtons about four years ago.

Besides his wife of 69 years, survivors include two daughters, Bonnie Herrmann and Connie Katta; a son, Donald R.; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Services will be private.