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Richard A. Grainger, 80, active in boating and Holiday Valley Ski Patrol

July 25, 1937 – March 9, 2018

Growing up in Niles, Ohio, Dick Grainger developed his first passion, for boating.

He began sailing with his parents and, by the time he was in high school, he was racing a home-built hydroplane and a succession of sailboats.

He discovered his second passion in college. On winter excursions to Vermont, he fell in love with skiing. Not long after he arrived in Buffalo, he joined the Ski Patrol at Holiday Valley as a volunteer, went on to serve as director and remained active until last year.

Mr. Grainger, a manager and director of sales for computer companies, died March 9 in Buffalo General Medical Center after a short illness. He was 80.

Standing slightly taller than 6-foot-3, Richard A. Grainger earned nine varsity letters in football, basketball and track in high school. He was class president and president of the student council and the National Honor Society.

He attended Yale University on a New York Yale Club Scholarship and was a dean’s list student, earning a bachelor’s degree in industrial administration and bachelor of engineering degree in civil engineering in 1959. He played varsity football and intramural basketball, served as a master’s aide, was president of the Yale Outing Club and was a member of the class book committee and Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

Mr. Grainger came to Buffalo in 1960 for a summer job. While working as a manager for Protective Closures, he earned a master's degree in business administration from the University at Buffalo.

He then joined IBM. His major account was Bell Aerosystems in the heyday of the space program in the 1960s and 1970s. As activities slowed at Bell, he became part of the team that converted Marine Midland Bank to an IBM computer system, which was IBM’s largest non-governmental project.

He went on to work in technical sales for several other firms and, in the 1990s, became manager of the local office of Conserval, a Canadian company that sold solar heating systems. He retired about 15 years ago.

He was president of the Lederhosen Ski Club when he met a Canadian skier, Mabel Baron, on the slopes at Holiday Valley in 1963. When he offered to give her a ride, he mistakenly thought she lived in Hamburg.

“He took me all the way back home to Hamilton,” she said. They were married in 1966.

For more than 20 years, they organized trips to major ski areas in the West for the club and ran other trips, including white water rafting tours.

Longtime Town of Tonawanda residents, they built a chalet at Holiday Valley.

Mr. Grainger received his national ski patrol appointment in 1974 and became a certified adaptive ski instructor for the Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program at the ski resort. He also was a member of the Ellicottville Ski Club.

When warm weather arrived, he was back on the water. With his wife and his son, Paul, he established Queen City Sailing in 1977 and ran it for 25 years in Erie Basin Marina, renting sailboats. He was a member of the Buffalo Yacht Club for more than 25 years and built eight boats himself.

His interest expanded to power boats, and he owned six of them, ranging from 17 to 48 feet. He was a director of the Antique and Classic Boat Society of Western New York.

He rafted on many the nation’s most famous rivers. He said that none was as treacherous as the lower Niagara River, where rafting was banned after three people died in 1975.

“I was a passenger on the first raft that went down with commercial passengers,” he told an interviewer in 2008. “It made the Grand Canyon pale in comparison.”

He was a licensed New York State rafting guide for more than 35 years, leading tours for Adventure Calls and the Zoar Valley Canoe and Rafting Co.

He also was an organizer for Solar Splash, the international intercollegiate engineering competition for solar-powered boats that was held in Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park from 2001 to 2005.

He also took up flying and was rated as a land and sea pilot. He was a member of the Western New York Flying Club.

He taught classes at Medaille College, Niagara County Community College and Cornell University and for inmates in local penitentiaries in the 1990s. He also taught home building classes for a private company.

In addition to his wife and son, survivors include a brother, Thomas.

A celebration of his life will be held at 1 p.m. May 6 in the Knights of Columbus, 2735 Union Road, Cheektowaga.

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