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Mary M. Chimera, 98, saved neighbor from choking

Oct. 7, 1918 – July 10, 2017

Mary M. Chimera, who made headlines at the age of 93 when she saved a neighbor from choking, died unexpectedly Monday in her home in Amherst. She was 98.

In September 2012, she was en route by elevator to get her mail on the first floor of her apartment building when the doors opened on the second floor, revealing a friend who struggled to say, “I can’t breathe – I’m choking.”

Although she had not been trained in the Heimlich maneuver, she stepped behind her friend and wrapped her arms around her.

“I didn’t know if I was doing it right,” she told Buffalo News reporter Stephen T. Watson, “I was squeezing, and then I hit her back.”

Moments later, the friend swallowed the piece of chicken that caused her distress and quickly recovered.

“The sharp, spry nonagenarian doesn’t consider herself a hero,” Watson wrote at the time, “saying she just tried to help someone in need.”

Born in Buffalo, the former Mary M. Lauria grew up on the West Side and attended city schools.

A longtime resident of the Town of Tonawanda, she raised three children, then worked as a cashier at Sattler’s in the Boulevard Mall and as a clerk-typist in the Erie County Purchasing Department.

She also volunteered for 10 years at Erie County Medical Center.

A diehard New York Yankees fan, she also enjoyed swimming, walking, cooking and playing poker with friends. She was particularly noted for her homemade pizza and lemon meringue pie.

Her husband of 58 years, Joseph C., who worked in the Adjudication Department at the Veterans Administration, died in 2002.

Survivors include two sons, Paul R. and Joseph A.; a daughter, Carolyn T. Kenyon; a brother, Dr. John Lauria; five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in C. Mertz and Son Funeral Home, 911 Englewood Ave., Town of Tonawanda.

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