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Legal Aid attorney Peter Ruszczyk overcame humble roots as an orphan

July 11, 1937 – May 17, 2018

Peter T. Ruszczyk, an award-winning human rights attorney, died Thursday in Buffalo General Medical Center after a short illness. He was 80.

It was through his work at the Legal Aid Society that work that Mr. Ruszczyk met his wife, the former Louise E. Carey. They married in 1970 and opened a law firm, Carey and Ruszczyk, in Buffalo in 1972.

He was active with Bar Association of Erie County's Human Rights Committee and received the pro bono award from Volunteer Lawyers in 2001. He retired in 2003.

Mr. Ruszczyk's success followed a difficult start in life. He was born in Albion Women's Correctional Facility and spent his childhood in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Orphan's Home, living there until he was in the eighth grade. He attended East Aurora High School.

Mr. Ruszczyk received a full scholarship to Syracuse University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor's degree in political science in 1959. He earned his master's degree the following year in public administration from the Maxwell School.

He served as medic in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves.

In 1964, he graduated from the University at Buffalo Law School. He worked in civil service in Albany before moving to the Legal Aid Society.

Mr. Ruszczyk was active politically as the Albany County Chair for Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign and served as a Democratic committeeman for over a decade in the 1980s and 1990s.

He was an avid hiker and climbed 45 of the Adirondack Mountains' highest peaks. He also was a member of the Foothills Trail Club for over four decades and developed and maintained trails.

As a proud Polish-American, Mr. Ruszczyk served as treasurer and member of the Polish Arts Club. He founded the Western New York Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1995. He also mentored schoolchildren with the Lawyers for Learning association. In addition, he regularly participated in marches, most recently the Buffalo Women's March in 2017.

He continued to stay active in his Parkside community, sharing home-baked bread and also his commentary on politics, and current events with his family and passersby.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Ruszczyk is survived by two daughters, Sarah and Melanie; a son, Stephen; his brother, Louis; and five grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Monday in St. Joseph's University Church, 3269 Main St., Buffalo.

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