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Joseph I. Marino, 92, World War II Navy officer and boating enthusiast

Jan. 16, 1925 – Aug. 3, 2017

Joseph I. Marino was ready to follow his oldest brother, Vincent, into a career in dentistry when World War II began.

Instead of starting at Canisius College, Mr. Marino enlisted in the Navy. First he went to the Navy College Training Program at Cornell University, then to U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at the University of Notre Dame. At 19, he was a commissioned officer, en route to the war in the Pacific.

He was assigned to the USS New Hanover, an amphibious assault cargo ship that helped launch the invasion of Okinawa in April 1945, running troops and landing craft underneath bombardment from American ships off shore.

“I was the fire control director for two quad 40-millimeter guns,” he told Buffalo News reporter Lou Michel last year. “The kamikaze that we fired on about April 10 was headed toward our ship and was hit with shrapnel and crashed into the ship next to us.”

Mr. Marino died Thursday in Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center after a short illness. He was 92.

Born in Medina, the fifth of six children, he attended St. Mary’s Elementary School and was a 1942 graduate of Medina High School. When he was 12, he built a boat and paddled it on Oak Orchard Creek.

He returned to Canisius in 1946 on the G.I. Bill. After completing a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry in two years, he applied to the University of Buffalo Dental School, but was turned down. The school had thousands of applications and only 65 open slots.

In 1949, he married Mary Catherine Murray, a North Buffalonian he met at Crescent Beach, Ont. He worked for the Erie County Department of Social Welfare and began studying for a degree in social work, but again the Navy changed his plans.

A Naval Reservist, he was activated during the Korean War. He served in the Mediterranean aboard the USS Mercer in 1951 and 1952 and attained the rank of lieutenant senior grade.

When he returned, he learned that the pharmaceutical company Pfizer was building a sales force. He joined as a sales representative in 1953.

“It was a carbon copy of his Naval career,” his son Jim says. “He was part of the first team to hit the beach.”

Mr. Marino began in Rochester in the hospital sales division, then was transferred to Buffalo. He became a Western New York division manager and won numerous awards. After he retired in 1989, Pfizer continued to invite him to speak at national sales meetings.

A longtime Town of Tonawanda resident, Mr. Marino maintained his enthusiasm for boating. He graduated from a 16-foot craft that he built from a kit to a Chris Craft 40 Roamer, which he sailed on the Niagara River. He was an officer in the Buffalo Launch Club and chaired the annual summer Hawaiian party.

He learned piano and organ from his sister, Anna, a teacher who was organist at Holy Angels Catholic Church. Active in the Rochester Theatre Organ Society and the Niagara Frontier Theatre Organ Society, he played at Saturday kiddie matinees at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda and traveled to perform on theater organs in other cities.

He also was active in the Canisius College Alumni Association and enjoyed woodworking.

His wife died in 2011.

Survivors include two daughters, Jean Ellen Prendergast and Mary Anne; three sons, Joseph I. Jr.,  James P. and Michael L.; a brother, Phillip; 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Joseph University Catholic Church, 3269 Main St.

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