Aug. 23, 1925 – Jan. 25, 2016
Henry R. Gabryszak, a retired municipal judge and a force in Cheektowaga politics for half a century, died Monday in Sisters Hospital after a short illness. He was 90.
Mr. Gabryszak, of Sloan, presided for 15 years in Cheektowaga Town Court, one of Erie County’s busiest town courts, and for 28 years as Sloan village justice. A judge who took pride in the efficiency of his courtroom, in Sloan he once leaped from the bench and subdued a defendant who was attacking the police officer who arrested him.
Born in Buffalo, Mr. Gabryszak attended School 57 and was a graduate of Sloan High School and Bryant and Stratton Business Institute.
During World War II, he worked for a short time as an accounts clerk in the Department of the Navy offices in Washington, D.C., but returned to Buffalo to help his family after his father became ill. He helped operate his father’s tavern on Broadway near the city line.
He worked as a Cheektowaga police dispatcher, then became a stenographer for Buffalo City Court Judge Michael E. Zimmer. Later he served as confidential secretary and court reporter for then-City Judge M. Dolores Denman.
A lifelong Democrat, Mr. Gabryszak inherited a love of politics from his father, who had run unsuccessfully for office in Buffalo. Shortly after building a home in Sloan with help from friends, he ran for mayor of the village in 1953 and was elected, becoming the youngest mayor in New York State at the time. He served for one two-year term.
He was first elected Sloan village justice in 1967 and unsuccessfully challenged longtime Cheektowaga Supervisor Dan Weber in 1971. He was appointed interim town justice in Cheektowaga in 1974 and was elected to the first of four terms the following year. He retired from the Cheektowaga court in 1989 and stepped down from the bench in Sloan in 1995.
His son, Dennis, was Cheektowaga supervisor from 1993 to 2006 and served for seven years in the state Assembly.
A longtime member of the Chopin Singing Society, Mr. Gabryszak traveled with the group to perform in Poland and at the Vatican in Rome in 1984. At the Vatican, he received an audience with Pope John Paul II, who blessed a photo of his ailing grandson.
He also sang with Quo Vadis Choir and the choir at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, where he was a parishioner. He also was a member of the St. Andrew’s Holy Name Society and worked as a volunteer at its bingo games.
During the early 1980s, he was part of a group of Cheektowaga residents who gathered clothing and other items to send to Solidarity protesters in Poland.
Survivors include his wife of 66 years, the former Alfreda Osmola; two sons, Dennis and Mark; a brother, Alex; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Andrew’s Church, 34 Francis Ave., Sloan.