March 28, 1938 – Feb. 6, 2019
Alan J. Justin became one of the Erie County Republican Party’s brightest stars on election night in 1972.
He scored an upset victory over incumbent Democrat John B. Lis, earning the distinction of being the first Cheektowaga resident to be elected to a seat in the State Assembly.
Representing the 146th District, which was heavily Democratic, he set himself apart from the Republican establishment and Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.
Buffalo Evening News Albany Bureau Chief Jerry Allen characterized him as “one of the most popular of the freshman crop of legislators.” Mr. Justin was among those mentioned in 1974 as a possible lieutenant governor candidate on a ticket with Malcolm Wilson, who succeeded Rockefeller.
When he ran for re-election to the Assembly that year, The News endorsed him, noting: “Mr. Justin has generally displayed independence and intelligence in his positions on state issues, and initiative on matters of local concern, as in sponsoring legislation for an Erie County foreign trade zone. In the investigations of tax and land scandals in Cheektowaga, he has been responsibly helpful and clearly identified with the reform elements.”
In the post-Watergate landslide for Democrats, he lost to Dennis T. Gorski, and returned to his previous career as an insurance broker.
Running against Gorski in 1976 on the Conservative Party line, he also was unsuccessful.
He died Feb. 6 in his Elma home after a period of declining health. He was 80.
Born Alan J. Juskiewicz in Buffalo, he was a 1956 graduate of Pine Hill High School in Cheektowaga, where he earned all-county honors in his senior year in four sports – baseball, basketball, football and track.
A right-handed pitcher, he was scouted by Joe Frisa and signed a contract to play in the New York Yankees farm system in 1957. He appeared in several games with the Bradford-Hornell team in the New York-Penn League.
After attending what was then Erie County Technical Institute, he began a career as an independent insurance agent, founding Alan Justin Associates. He was John Hancock Man of the Year in 1965.
He first ran for office in 1971, when he lost a bid for a seat on the Cheektowaga Town Board.
After his campaigns for Assembly, he was endorsed by Republicans in an unsuccessful challenge to incumbent Democratic County Clerk Genevieve M. Starosciak in 1978.
In 1980, he switched party enrollment from Republican to Democrat to run against incumbent 58th District State Sen. Dale M. Volker, but was defeated. He later lost a bid to become mayor of Lancaster.
As an independent insurance agent, he thrived. He was Empire Mutual Insurance Salesman of the Year in 1976 and the leading personal producing general agent nationwide for Hartford Life in 1982.
In 1993, he founded Justin Financial Services in Depew, where he was assisted by his four sons, and was president until he closed the firm and retired in 2006.
In retirement, he enjoyed golfing and frequently visited Saratoga Springs for the annual thoroughbred racing meet in August.
A former president of the Pine Hill Athletic Club, he was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame in 1994.
Survivors include his wife of 36 years, the former Patricia M. Jankowski; four sons, Alan Jr., Patrick, Eric and Todd; a brother, Paul; 10 grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
A celebration of his life will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 9, in Ripa's Restaurant, 4218 Walden Ave., Lancaster.