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Irving C. Maghran Jr., 97, decorated war hero and longtime defense attorney

Jan. 21, 1921 - July 27, 2018

Irving C. Maghran Jr. was wounded twice as he led his troops in the Ardennes and the Battle of the Bulge. Yet when the Army needed a fair-minded officer who could administer the affairs of the occupied city of Mosbach, Germany, they called on the young captain.

That yearlong experience as administrator led Mr. Maghran to the law, a profession he followed for some 50 years in Buffalo.

Mr. Maghran died on July 27 in the Weinberg Campus in Getzville at age 97. A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 31, in St. Mark's Catholic Church, 401 Woodward Ave.

Mr. Maghran was born in Scranton, Pa., the second of five children of Irving C. Maghran Sr. and Elizabeth (Dwyer) and brother of Mary, Jane, Robert and Grace.

As a child he moved with his family to Buffalo when his father, a Pillsbury executive, was transferred, and he began his schooling at Nardin Academy. The family then moved to Philadelphia, where Mr. Maghran graduated from high school and from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business in 1943.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army, attending Officer Candidate School. Mr. Maghran told his son Michael that after he completed Officer Candidate School, the colonel who selected students to become officers passed him by, selecting only candidates from the South.

"Dad went over his head to a general, because he thought he had nothing to lose," said Michael Maghran. "He thought it was unfair, because he had met all the requirements. The general reversed the decision, and he became an officer because of that."

Mr. Maghran was a first lieutenant in the infantry, leading his troops in the Ardennes and the Battle of the Bulge. A commendation letter written by command of Major General Parker recounts that when Maghran's platoon was unable to approach four enemy pillboxes in Germany due to automatic weapons fire, "Maghran ran to a nearby tank and climbed on it to attract the attention of the crew. Although the tank was subject to heavy mortar fire, he directed fire from the tank weapons on the enemy resistance." Wounded by shrapnel, he "refused to be evacuated until the objective was taken." He was wounded again in combat and received the Silver Star and the Purple Heart and was promoted to captain.

Following the war, Mr. Maghran served one year in the American military government in Germany as administer of Mosbach, a city south of Frankfurt. "His temperament was right for that," said his son. Upon returning home, Mr. Maghran enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania Law School, graduating in 1949.

After completing law school he returned to Buffalo. This time it would turn out to be permanent. While visiting his father in a local hospital, he met nurse Norma Elsaesser. Although he was around 30 and she was 10 years younger, the pair married on Aug. 2, 1952, in the rectory at St. Mark's parish.

They lived in the Central Park area and had 11 children. Two daughters, Kathleen and Katherine, died as infants, and daughter Karen Jacobi died at age 50.

Mr. Maghran initially practiced with another young attorney, John Curtin, and they were friends for the rest of their lives. Mr. Curtin, a senior judge of the United States District Court, died last year at age 95.

Mr. Maghran joined the firm of Sullivan & Weaver, which in time became Maghran, McCarthy & Flynn. He spent 50 years as a successful trial attorney and was admitted to the American College of Trial Lawyers.

A defense attorney, primarily for insurance companies, Mr. Maghran "was a litigator, he specialized in trial work," said his son. "He liked the competitiveness of it, and he liked the law itself."

His highest-profile case was when he defended the State of New York during the closely watched Attica Prison riot trials.

He especially enjoyed trying cases in New York’s Southern Tier, frequently visiting Mayville and Olean.

"He had no pretensions about him," said his son.

He was an avid golfer and early member of Cherry Hill Club in Ridgeway, Ont. A self-described scrambler, he loved the competition of the game, his son said.

Mr. Maghran enjoyed summers on Lake Erie at Crescent Beach in Fort Erie, where he loved gardening and distributing his tomato crop to friends and relatives.

"He wouldn't try to dominate a room, but he had a personality that you always knew he was there," said Michael Maghran. "If he saw somebody with a big ego, he would say, 'You know, they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like me.' "

Mr. Maghran was "extremely good at reading people, their body language," said his son. "He could tell what was going on, and you couldn't lie to him. That was just part of his talent. And if you tried, he'd call you out on it."

He was described as a true family man who, as his children grew older, encouraged them to follow their own individual paths, his son said. "He didn't lead us or push us," Michael Maghran said. "He found his way up as a kid and he left it open for all of us to determine our own way. There was no pressure other than we were to work hard and figure out what we wanted."

Although he never formally retired, Mr. Maghran stopped working around 1996, his son said. The Maghrans wintered in Naples, Fla., for several years until 2016, when he remained in Western New York.

Norma Maghran died in November of 2014 after 62 years of marriage.

Besides his son Michael, Mr. Maghran is survived by his children Mark, David, Brian, Susan, Elizabeth, Daniel and Gregory; his sister, Grace (Lolly) Lenahan; and 25 grandchildren.

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