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Vera Canada, 100, known for her custom-designed women's hats

Nov. 15, 1917 – Sept. 1, 2018

Vera Canada, renowned locally for her custom designs of women’s hats, died Sept. 1 in Garden Gate Health Care Facility, Cheektowaga. She was 100.

The second of seven children, the former Vera Cathey was born in Little Rock, Ark., and came to Lackawanna with her parents in 1918. She attended Lackawanna High School.

Interested in sewing from the time she was a girl, she completed an 18-month mail-order course in hat making and began making hats for family and friends. With no hat-making materials available in Buffalo, she ordered materials from New York City and had to make her own forms for the hats.

Mrs. Canada went on to open her own store, Vera’s Millinery Shop, first on Fillmore Avenue, then on Grider Street in the 1960s and 1970s across from Erie County Medical Center, where she lived above the shop. Her specially designed hats attracted customers from all over the area, as well as buyers from local department stores such as Berger’s, Hens & Kelly and the Sample Shop.

She instructed many women how to make custom millinery and volunteered in a Community Action Organization after-school program, teaching third- and fourth-graders how to sew.

For many years she was a member of the Second Baptist Church in Lackawanna, where she was a member of the usher board and served as secretary for nine years.

After moving to Buffalo, she joined New Hope Baptist Church, where she was a member of the Floral Club and served as its financial secretary.

A longtime resident of Baptist Manor, she made her apartment a showplace for her sewing talents with curtains, chair covers and blankets that she created.

She married David Canada Jr., a steelworker, in 1935. He died in 1979. Their son, Oscar, died in 1999.

Survivors include eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and 14 great-great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at noon Friday, Sept. 7, in Exodus Gardens Funeral Home, 605 Masten Ave.

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