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Barton Simonian, 88, tough cop who found peaceful ends to tense situations

Jan. 3, 1930 – Dec. 2, 2018

Barton Simonian was a muscular, broad-shouldered cop who looked like he could throw a criminal through a brick wall.

But he rarely resorted to violence during his 42 years as a Buffalo Police officer. His goal was to bring peace and calm to dangerous situations.

“That was his forte,” recalled his brother, former Homicide Bureau Chief Gregory Simonian. “Bart was a strong, formidable guy, who could be very tough if he had to be. But the department would send him to work in precincts where there was a lot of trouble and violence, with the idea of calming things down. When things were getting violent, Bart would defuse the situation, not escalate things.”

Barton Simonian, who retired from police work in 1995, died in Elderwood at Grand Island after a short illness. The longtime Town of Tonawanda resident was 88.

Joining the police force in 1953, he was assigned as a patrolman — and later as a lieutenant — in many of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. For approximately the last 15 years of his career, he worked out of Police Headquarters, initially as an assistant chief of detectives, and later as a lieutenant in the Narcotics Squad and Special Frauds Bureau. He also served for a time as coordinator of the city’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, or DARE.

Family members recalled the time Barton Simonian was at a Police Athletic League basketball game, when angry words erupted between the two teams after the game. One of the teenage players picked up a crowbar and was ready to clobber someone.

“Everyone just froze — parents included,” recalled Peter Simonian, one of the lieutenant’s sons.

He said his father calmly walked up to the angry player and just took the crowbar away from him. The player ran away and the angry words subsided.

“He just had a real knack of just talking to people, being fair with everyone and saying, ‘Let’s just sort this out,’ ” said one of his daughters, Barbara Simonian-Palmerton.

He grew up on Buffalo’s West Side, where his father, John, ran a tavern. After graduating from Burgard Vocational High School, Mr. Simonian began working in the tavern with his brother.

“We got to know a police lieutenant who lived in the neighborhood,” Greg Simonian recalled. “The lieutenant walked in one day and said, ‘They’re giving a police exam, why don’t you guys take it?’ He knew our mother didn’t want us working in the tavern business.”

“Our father told us, ‘Try police work, you might like it. You can help people,’ ” Greg Simonian said.

Both brothers took the police exam, passed it, got jobs and had long, rewarding police careers.

After retirement, Mr. Simonian kept busy cooking for his family and going on trips with his wife of 57 years, the former Mildred Vujakovich.

Mr. Simonian also enjoyed watching boxing and football on television, spending time with his grandchildren and working on cars.

He was a former president of the Buffalo Police Lieutenants Association and was a veteran of the U.S. National Guard.

He is also survived by another daughter, Camille; two other sons, Barton Jr. and Gregory; a sister, Barbara Hagopian; and five grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Dec. 8 in the chapel at Elmlawn Cemetery, Town of Tonawanda.

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