Aug. 5, 1914 – Oct. 30, 2017
Gust E. Tassy could have had a career as a pilot.
He flew Navy amphibious cargo planes over the Pacific in World War II and continued to fly small planes until he was 88 years old.
But instead, he carved out a career in Buffalo making sweets.
The founder of Alethea’s Chocolates, Mr. Tassy died Monday in his Williamsville home after a period of declining health. He was 103.
Born in Buffalo, the third of four boys, he was a 1931 graduate of Burgard Vocational High School and began flying when he was 16. During the 1930s, he worked in tool design at the Curtiss-Wright aircraft factory. When World War II began, he set his sights on becoming a Navy aviator.
He went into an accelerated course at the Naval Officer Candidate School at the University of North Carolina and, since he already had a pilot’s license, completed it in record time. He was deployed to the Pacific and attained the rank of lieutenant commander.
After the war, he was enlisted to assist his brothers in their business, Paul’s Pies, when his oldest brother, Paul, was seriously injured in an auto accident. From its bakery and store at Main and West Balcom streets, for a time it was the largest pie maker between New York City and Chicago.
After two of his brothers died in the mid-1960s, Paul's Pies was sold and Mr. Tassy bought the Garden of Sweets on Bailey Avenue from Nicholas Condrell. He renamed it Alethea’s Chocolates after his grandmother, who was a confectioner in Greece.
Working with his son, Dean, who now operates the business, he expanded Alethea’s to four mall stores and its current location on Main Street in Clarence, which opened in 1985. He continued to work three or four days a week until he was 100.
“He had incredible energy,” Dean Tassy said. “He was a very motivated, brilliant guy.”
Mr. Tassy was a Buffalo area confectioner for nearly 70 years.
He also continued to fly in the Naval Reserve and to pilot his own small planes. His son estimated that he logged more than 20,000 hours in the air in military and private planes. He also enjoyed power boating until he was 92, and was a member of the Buffalo Yacht Club and the Buffalo Power Squadron.
He also was a skiing and photography enthusiast and set up a darkroom in his home to develop his photos.
His daughter, Kathleen, recalled that he once attached a camera to his skis so that he could document his downhill runs at Sun Valley Ski Resort in Idaho.
He was a former board member of Retail Confectioners International.
His wife of 72 years, the former Marian Daskalakes, died in 2016. In addition to his son and daughter, survivors include nieces and nephews.
A funeral liturgy will be offered at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4 in the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, 146 W. Utica St.