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John B. Drenning, 81, partner in leading Buffalo law firms

April 5, 1937 — March 2, 2019

John B. Drenning, an attorney specializing in corporate law and a partner in the leading Buffalo law firms, died March 2 in his Buffalo home after a 2½-year battle with leukemia. He was 81.

Born in Mount Kisco, John Brabazon Drenning was a graduate of Bedford Hills High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Buffalo in 1961 and went on to Cornell University Law School, where he won the 1963 moot court competition and received his law degree in 1964.

He was a clerk for two years in the State Supreme Court Appellate Division in Albany for two years, then moved to Buffalo. At the firm of Moot and Sprague from 1966 to 1990, he became a partner and headed the practices in labor law and banking.

Mr. Drenning became a partner at Phillips, Lytle, Hitchcock, Blaine and Huber in 1990 and had been a partner at Hodgson Russ in its corporate and securities practice since 2000. In 2002, he was included in the ninth edition of “Best Lawyers in America.”

He served on the boards of directors and was corporate secretary for Moog Inc., Acme Electric Corp., MOD-PAC and Astronics Corp., where at the time of his death he had been a board member for nearly 50 years. At Moog, he continued to serve as a trustee of the Supplemental Retirement Plan Trust.

Astronics board chairman Kevin T. Keane, in a statement following Mr. Drenning’s death, said, “We are deeply saddened by his passing. He was an accomplished lawyer who brought wisdom, balance, humor and business insight to the board. His dedication, hard work, leadership and compassion provided us wise counsel over many years.”

He also was a member of the board of directors and corporate secretary to the Western New York Technology Development Center.

He was a trustee at Westminster Presbyterian Church from 1979 to 1982 and served as board president in 1982. He also served on the Buffalo State College Foundation board of directors and the Cornell Law Association executive committee.

A member of the Country Club of Buffalo, he enjoyed golf, tennis, shooting and fly fishing, along with painting and wood carving. He also helped construct boats at the Buffalo Maritime Center, where he built himself an Adirondack guide boat. He arranged for it to be donated to Paul Smith’s College.

For more than 30 years, he and his wife had a vacation home in the Adirondacks at Upper Saranac Lake.

An avid reader, he was a lifelong student of history and constitutional law. In recent years, he also traveled extensively.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years, the former Barbara Shields, active in many community organizations; a daughter, Elizabeth B.; a son, John B. III; and a grandson.

A memorial service is planned for May.

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