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Joseph B. Manzella, 84, retired principal, helped found Naval Park

July 2, 1932 – July 1, 2017

Like other boys growing up during World War II, Joseph B. Manzella was inspired to patriotism.

He was part of a youth group that took part in a special war bond drive on the promise that the Navy would name a cruiser for Buffalo and was given a certificate of appreciation. When the war ended, construction of that ship was halted, but he never forgot it.

He campaigned for three decades to convince the Navy to keep its pledge to name a vessel after his hometown.

In the 1970s, with the help of Congressman Jack Kemp, he finally succeeded. When the nuclear attack submarine USS Buffalo was commissioned in 1982, Mr. Manzella was declared a “plankowner,” an honorary member of the sub’s first crew.

A retired teacher and Buffalo school principal, Mr. Manzella died in Mercy Hospital after a long illness on July 1, the day before his 85th birthday.

Born in Buffalo, he attended School 45 -- where he would later serve as principal -- and was a graduate of Lafayette High School.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Buffalo State Teachers College, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served stateside, editing military publications in Washington, D.C., and serving as an honor guard at embassy functions.

Returning from service, he completed a master’s degree at Buffalo State, was a science teacher in the Buffalo schools, then was a teacher in Kenmore schools from 1959 to 1965.

He returned to Buffalo to become a principal and served at five schools, 36, 61, 33, 45 and 51.

In 1971, as principal at School 36, he received the Freedoms Foundation’s American Educators Medal for innovative programs. He retired in 1987.

A West Seneca resident, Mr. Manzella helped found what is now the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park. He was part of the group that arranged for the Navy to donate the park’s first ships, the USS Little Rock and the USS The Sullivans.

A longtime member of the park's board of directors, he served as head of acquisitions and educational director for the park's museum and its exhibits. He was instrumental in having a monument for Korean War veterans placed in the park.

Mr. Manzella also helped locate the previously forgotten burial site of Sarah Hinson in Forest Lawn. Hinson, a Buffalo teacher and school principal, held the first celebration of Flag Day with her students in 1891.

Over the years, the flag celebration caught on around the country and it became an official national holiday in 1916. Her grave, now marked with a stone and a flagpole flying the Stars and Stripes, has become a cemetery landmark.

Survivors include his wife of 59 years, the former Alice M. Wylegala, a retired teacher; two sons, Christopher and Joseph; two daughters, Catherine Harlukiewicz and Laurie; and three grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Thursday in Queen of Heaven Catholic Church, 4220 Seneca St., West Seneca.

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