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Stewart M. Levy, co-founder of WBLK-FM, ran for Buffalo mayor

Nov. 6, 1926 – Sept. 11, 2016

As a top local record distributor in the 1950s and 1960s, Stewart M. Levy hosted Frankie Avalon, Sammy Davis Jr. and Pat Boone as overnight guests in his family’s North Buffalo home. He also was a co-founder of radio station WBLK-FM.

In 1973, Mr. Levy ran unsuccessfully for Buffalo mayor, losing to Stanley M. Makowski, but he stayed active in Republican city politics for the rest of his life.

And even in his mid-80s, Mr. Levy still worked on one-year contracts with the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, as he remained a City Hall fixture until last month.

Mr. Levy died Sunday in Kenmore Mercy Hospital after a short illness, ending the life of a colorful character who adored his adopted hometown of Buffalo. He was 89.

“My father liked everybody,” said one of his sons, Jordan A. Levy. “Whenever he’d go walking around City Hall, which he’s done for over 20 years, everybody loved him. He was kind of like the unofficial mayor of City Hall. Tony Masiello and Byron Brown would tell you that.”

A Chicago native, Mr. Levy attended the University of Illinois and moved to Buffalo in 1951 to work for his father-in-law, Benjamin L. Kulick, in the record-distribution business.

“Those were the days when the records industry was based on local markets, and Buffalo was an important city, especially in the music industry,” Jordan Levy said.

So when Avalon, Davis, Boone and Ray Charles came to Buffalo to play at local clubs and spread their names, they would stay at the Levy house on Tacoma Avenue.

Mr. Levy and his wife, Faye, stood up at Boone’s wedding, his son said. “And when Frankie Avalon and Fabian started doing their reunion tour and came to Buffalo, when they saw my father, it was like hugs and kisses,” he added.

In the early 1960s, Mr. Levy and George “Hound Dog” Lorenz founded WBLK, whose call letters most people still believe stand for “black.” But Jordan Levy said BLK were the initials of his father-in-law, who was a major financial backer.

When Mr. Levy ran for mayor as a Republican in 1973, his slogan reflected his longtime passion for the city: “For the Love of Buffalo.” After a convincing loss in predominantly Democratic Buffalo, Mr. Levy went to Democratic campaign headquarters in the Statler to concede, urging both parties to come together to improve the city. He remained a lifelong Republican, active in the Erie County and state party organizations and helping recruit young moderate Republican candidates.

With his upbeat personality, Mr. Levy had no trouble making friends with politicians of all stripes.

After learning of his friend’s death, Rep. Brian Higgins left Jordan Levy a voicemail on Monday, saying in part, “What a wonderful, wonderful guy … You know, so encouraging, so optimistic, so engaging. Just really one of my favorite people.”

In his business career, besides the record-distribution business, Mr. Levy distributed coin-operated games and jukeboxes and later worked as an investment banker, helping finance projects including the Albany Mall. And in later years, he worked for both the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency and the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp.

Survivors include his wife of 65 years, the former Faye Kulick; two sons, Mitchell B. and Jordan A.; a brother, Gerald; and four grandchildren. Services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Temple Beth Zion, 805 Delaware Ave.

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