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Ronald A. Venturini, golf pro, Vietnam War veteran

Oct. 1, 1937 – April 1, 2016

Ronald A. Venturini, of Grand Island, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and golf pro, died last Friday in Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a battle with cancer. He was 78.

Born in Morristown, N.J., he showed his passion for flying at an early age by assembling and collecting wooden model planes. He was president of his high school class in Boonton, N.J., and graduated from Gettysburg College, where he began his career in the Air Force as a cadet in the ROTC program.

He flew for 21 years in the Air Force and took part in more than 100 bombing missions in the Vietnam War, mostly over Hanoi, as the pilot of a Republic F-105 Thunderchief based in Thakli Air Base in Thailand.

He received numerous awards and medals, including six Distinguished Flying Crosses and an Air Medal with 13 oak leaf clusters. Later in his Air Force career, he was a flight instructor.

After he retired and moved to Grand Island in 1978, Mr. Venturini opened a soft ice cream stand, the Whippy Dip, at Grand Island Boulevard and Whitehaven Road, and began a career as a golf professional at River Oaks Golf Course. He went on to become the golf pro at Beaver Island State Park and Glen Oak Golf Course. In retirement, he continued to teach young players in an annual six-week golf clinic.

Loyal to his old friends, he faithfully attended all of his high school and college class reunions, as well as conventions with his Vietnam War compatriots. He also attended many golf shows, bringing back unusual items for his golf course pro shops.

He was a member of the Grand Island Lions Club and Charles N. DeGlopper Post 9249, Veterans of Foreign Wars.

His wife, the former Marilyn Mapoles, died in 2015.

Survivors include two daughters, Amy E. and Alissa M.; two brothers, Donald E. and Joel W.; a sister, Barbara A. DiTeresa; a close friend, Danny Kwiatkowski; and a grandson.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 2100 Baseline Road, Grand Island.