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Servotronics family feud continues to father's grave and beyond

Nicholas D. Trbovich Jr. attended his father's funeral Saturday without incident. No one asked that he leave Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna.

That wasn't the case the night before, when two court orders could not get him into the Orchard Park funeral home that held calling hours for the late Nicholas Trbovich Sr.

The elder Trbovich had been a captain of industry. In 1959, he founded the technology company Servotronics, which today has hundreds of employees and a $6 million factory in Elma. His patents and expertise made their mark on components for Boeing and Airbus aircraft. The Kensington High graduate held two doctorate degrees and is honored in the Niagara Frontier Aviation and Space Hall of Fame.

When he died Tuesday at age 82, Nicholas Trbovich Sr. left behind a daughter and four sons, one of whom was omitted from the obituary – Nicholas Trbovich Jr.

"This is just a very sad situation," said Joseph Makowski, a lawyer who helped obtain those two court orders late Friday afternoon. "Whatever differences there are between brothers, family members, you would think you would put them aside when a parent passes away."

Nicholas D. Trbovich, Servotronics founder, chairman and CEO

In court papers, Nicholas Jr. attributes the sad situation to the actions of his brother Kenneth. They are estranged, Nicholas wrote, because of "long-standing business and personal disputes."

In 2010, Nicholas Jr. moved from chief operating officer to president of Servotronics. He had worked at the company since high school and was its second-highest executive. But he was ousted two years later, when Servotronics appointed younger brother Kenneth to succeed him.

Nicholas Jr. challenged the action and won. An arbitrator in October 2014 deemed his termination a "sham" and awarded him $4.7 million in damages.

The sum rocked the company. The $4.7 million, plus the $850,000 that Nicholas Jr. sought in attorney's fees, amounted to about four years' of profits. The company turned to its insurance company for help in covering the payout.

Flash forward to this past week. As family members gathered to carry out the funeral arrangements for the family patriarch, Nicholas Jr. realized he was out of the loop. Then he saw the obituary. His name was nowhere to be found.

Many of Servotronics' legal matters are handled by the law offices of Edward C. Cosgrove, who sits on the company's board. In court papers, Nicholas Jr. said he learned that an attorney with Cosgrove's firm had begun talks with his own lawyer to lay down conditions that had to be met before Nicholas would be allowed at the calling hours for his father.

"If I were to sign a waiver of my rights against my late father's estate, Kenneth will consider my right to attend the wake," Nicholas Trbovich Jr. wrote in an affidavit. He went on to say he found the idea "extremely distasteful" and tried to call Kenneth, but his call was not returned.

The News left a phone message and sent an email to Cosgrove but did not get a response Saturday. The News could not reach the lawyer who reportedly laid down the conditions, Michael J. Lennon.

With his own lawyer out of town, Nicholas Trbovich went to court with attorney Joseph Makowski. The calling hours were from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday at F.E. Brown Sons Funeral Home in Orchard Park. Just hours earlier, Makowski presented a flurry of paperwork, including the Trbovich affidavit, to State Supreme Court Justice Donna Siwek.

After hearing from Lennon, Siwek signed an order that allowed Nicholas Jr. and his wife, Pamela, to have their own viewing from 5 to 6 p.m. But when the people in charge at the funeral home read the judge's order, they didn't believe it was specific enough to apply to them, Makowski said.

With calling hours underway, Makowski called Siwek, and the judge agreed to a second order. It specified that the funeral home and its employees were not to interfere with Nicholas Jr.'s attendance at the calling hours from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. But that order, too, failed to get Trbovich in, Makowski said.

Ousted Servotronics presidents wins $4.7 million arbitration

As Makowski tried to iron out the matter at the funeral home, Trbovich waited nearby at the home of a family friend, retired State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Mattina. Mattina said Makowski showed him both of Siwek's orders.

"They were proper orders," Mattina told The News. He said he does not understand why they did not get Trbovich and his wife inside.

On Saturday, a woman who said she speaks for the funeral home but who would not give her name, said she would not comment for this article.

"I'm deeply saddened by the passing of my father," Nicholas Trbovich said Friday evening. "He was a great man who I loved dearly. I regret that my brother Ken has disregarded my personal love for my father and also a court order that would allow me to pay proper respects to my dad."

Mattina said he knew Nicholas Trbovich should be allowed at the funeral the next day.

"Nick plans to go to Mass," he said. "It's a public place. He has a right to sit through a Catholic Mass."

Nicholas Trbovich, too, was determined to attend. He and his wife arrived early, nearly an hour before the scheduled 9:15 a.m. start. They and two friends placed themselves way down in front. The Rev. Sam Giangreco assured them they were welcome, Trbovich said.

After attending the funeral and the event at the cemetery, Nicholas Trbovich said he's considering what to do next on the legal front. The court complaint that served as the legal springboard for Siwek's two court orders is still pending.

In the meantime, he said, "I just want to respect my father's memory and move on to a better place."

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