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Edward W. Duffy, WWII vet, last CEO of Marine Midland Bank

April 30, 1926 – April 6, 2016

Edward W. Duffy surprised many in the national banking world when he was named one of the youngest heads of a major bank, becoming chairman and chief executive officer of Marine Midland Bank in 1973, at age 47. Ten years later, he pulled another shock when he retired from his position.

In between, Mr. Duffy guided the bank through some lean years followed by a steady growth pattern, while also presiding over the sale of the bank in 1979. That deal, which provided Marine Midland with much-needed capital, saw HSBC purchase 51 percent of the bank’s stock for some $236 million.

Mr. Duffy, who lived in East Aurora for 13 years while running the bank, died Wednesday in Sarasota, Fla., where he lived. He was 89.

The highlight of Mr. Duffy’s bank tenure was the history-making 1979 deal, which he called the most significant event of his career.

“We needed capital,” he told The Buffalo News when he retired in 1983, quoting another bank official who said, “We were a company that was going 35 miles an hour on a 50-mile-an-hour highway.”

Mr. Duffy became only the sixth person at the helm of Marine Midland Bank, following such banking titans as George F. Rand, Charles H. Diefendorf and J. Fred Schoellkopf IV.

A Utica native who spent much of his life in the North Country, Mr. Duffy started his banking career in Carthage, near Watertown, in 1952 before that bank merged into Marine. So he worked for Marine Midland for 31 years before his retirement.

He, his wife and their seven children remained in East Aurora for three more years after his retirement, citing their love of and commitment to Western New York.

At age 17, Mr. Duffy enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II, serving on a ship that carried cargo and personnel in the Mediterranean. He later attended Utica College on the GI Bill, graduating in 1950 with a degree in accounting. Passing up an opportunity to join the FBI, he started his career as a federal bank examiner in northern New York.

On his way up the Marine ladder, Mr. Duffy served as president of its Watertown, Utica and Syracuse divisions before being promoted to holding-company president, then CEO in 1973.

In the community, Mr. Duffy held leadership positions with civic groups throughout Western and Central New York, serving as a director here of the Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., HSBC and Dunlop Tire.

He was named Canisius College’s Businessman of the Year in 1981, while also earning honorary degrees from Hamilton College and Syracuse and Clarkson universities.

Mr. Duffy enjoyed playing golf, skiing, fishing and hunting, mostly with his family, including sitting in early-morning cold duck blinds with his sons and hunting friends.

Surviving are his wife of 62 years, the former Jean M. Burns; two daughters, Patricia Constable and Sheila Duffy; five sons, Kevin, Brian, Edward, James and Peter; a sister, Carol Burdick; and 11 grandchildren.

His funeral will be at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Clinton.