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Eugene M. Setel, 89, Buffalo attorney and civic leader

April 23, 1929 – May 29, 2018

Eugene M. Setel, a Buffalo attorney for more than 50 years and a leader in many community organizations, died May 29 in Canterbury Woods, Amherst. He was 89.

Born in Buffalo, the son of a lawyer, he was a 1946 graduate of the Park School of Buffalo and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1950 from Union College in Schenectady, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and helped found the college’s first soccer team.

After his first year at Harvard University Law School, he joined the Navy and was a member of its first officer candidate school class. Stricken with polio during his first two weeks at sea, he fully recovered and returned to Harvard to earn his juris doctor degree in 1955.

He became a partner in the firm of Borins, Setel, Snitzer and Brownstein in 1985 and retired in 2013. His son, Philip, observed that he “joked that he had spent the first part of his career helping clients buy houses and write wills and the last part selling houses and executing wills.”

Mr. Setel chaired the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar and its Committee on Minorities in the Profession.

He was a former president of the board of Erie Community College and the board chairman of the International Institute of Buffalo and the Ronald McDonald House. He was the inaugural chairman of the City of Buffalo Assessment Review Board.

He was a past board president of the Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo, the Rosa Coplon Home and the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies, which presented him with its Endowment Leadership Award.

He also served on the boards of Congregation Havurah, the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Family Services.

For more than 20 years, he was a volunteer mediator with Child and Family Services Center for Resolution and Justice. He also was an adviser to the board of directors of the Weinberg Campus and a member of the Fund Management Advisory Committee at Canterbury Woods.

He married the former Susan Wittman, a teacher and an attorney, in 1962. She died in 2001.

A longtime Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra season ticket holder, he developed a love of classical music as a boy when he was an usher at concerts in Kleinhans Music Hall.

He and his wife traveled widely, visiting 43 countries on six continents, and in 1966 were members of the first photographic safari to East Africa sponsored by the Buffalo Zoological Society.

They also were opera lovers and attended performances in Europe and China. The Opera Buffs of Western New York awarded them its Opera Buffery Award.

He was an avid skier at Glenwood Acres and Kissing Bridge until the age of 84.

In addition to his son, survivors include two daughters, Drorah, rabbi of Temple Beth El in Niagara Falls, and Ayah; and seven grandchildren.

Services were held May 31 in Congregation Havurah, 6320 Main St., Amherst.


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