July 12, 1925 - July 10, 2018
Jacque E. Austin, a member of the Canisius College Sports Hall of Fame, helped create many sports programs for youngsters during his more than 20 years as an Erie County deputy parks commissioner. One such program brought Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens to Buffalo to talk to youngsters.
Mr. Austin, who had lived in Wheatfield, died July 10 at the McAuley Residence in the Town of Tonawanda. He was 92.
On and off the playing field, Mr. Austin lived his life dedicated to fair play, his family said.
What he saw as a minor league baseball player helped shaped his view. Mr. Austin played on minor league teams for the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in the 1950s, only a few years after Jackie Robinson broke the major league's color barrier. Mr. Austin witnessed the segregation of the South when he saw two black teammates denied the right to stay in the same hotel as the rest of the team.
That affected him and drove him to help children, his family said.
During World War II, he served as a heavy mortar crewman with the 79th Infantry. His unit entered France after D-Day and fought its way to Berlin. He shared stories about being present when concentration camps were liberated.
The Buffalo native enrolled at Canisius College after the war, and he played in every varsity football game from 1946-49. He played football and baseball at Canisius, earning four letters on the gridiron and three on the diamond.
He led his team to three consecutive Little Three titles and a 1948 Great Lakes Bowl appearance, the school's only bowl game, according to the Canisius Sports Hall of Fame bio. He earned Second Team All-Little Three honors in 1947 and First Team accolades in 1948 after averaging 6.5 yards per carry that season. He led the team in scoring in 1949. He became the 33rd member of the football program inducted in the Canisius Sports Hall of Fame.
He is also a member of the Western New York Baseball Hall of Fame.
He served as deputy parks commissioner during the county executive administrations of Ned Reagan and Ed Rutkowski. He retired from the county is 1992. After retiring from the county, he served for a time as assistant budget director for the Town of Wheatfield.
He graduated from Riverside High School in 1943 and graduated from Canisius College in 1950.
Mr. Austin is survived by three sons, Jacque , James and Lawerence; a daughter, LuAnn Petersen; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A funeral Mass was held July 14 at St. Jude the Apostle Church in North Tonawanda.