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Charles U. Banta, 102, prominent Buffalo stockbroker

Obit photo for Charles Banta

Oct. 26, 1916 – May 18, 2019

Charles Urban Banta – regarded as the dean of Buffalo stockbrokers – died May 18 at his home in Canterbury Woods in Amherst, after a short illness. He was 102.

Born in Buffalo, his father’s family was associated with the Bidwell and Banta shipyard, which built large passenger steamboats for the Great Lakes, and his maternal grandfather, George Urban Jr., was president of the George Urban Milling Co.

After his father, a physician, died when he was 6, he and his mother and two sisters lived with his grandfather on the Urban family estate in Pine Ridge in Cheektowaga.

He attended upper elementary grades at Nichols School and was a 1935 graduate of the prestigious Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., where his classmates included future Pennsylvania Gov. William W. Scranton.

He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree in business administration from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business.

He worked for Ford Motor Co. in Detroit and Curtiss-Wright in Buffalo before enlisting in the Navy during World War II. He served in the Seabees in the Pacific at Guadalcanal, the Philippines and Okinawa, attaining the rank of lieutenant.

After the war, Mr. Banta worked in Boston at Rath and Strong Management Consultants, then returned to Buffalo in 1951 to take a position with the First National Bank.

In 1954, he joined what was then Hamlin and Lunt, an investment banking firm, and became a partner in 1958, when it became S. D. Lunt. He oversaw mergers and acquisitions of local companies and served on the boards of Astronics, the Buffalo Electric Co., Roblin Industries and the George Urban Milling Co.

After Lunt closed in 1974, he went to the Buffalo office of Kidder, Peabody and Co., became an assistant vice president, then left with Robert J. Dwyer in 1980 to launch the Buffalo branch of Dean Witter Reynolds.

He was senior vice president of investments and oversaw the expansion of the branch to more than 50 brokers before he retired, in 1999, from what then was Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

“We didn’t know how fast it would grow,” Mr. Banta told Buffalo News financial editor Bill Flynn in 1982, when the branch outgrew its original location and moved into larger offices in the Liberty Bank Building. “In actuality, it surprised Dean Witter, too.”

He served on the board of directors of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery for 24 years, beginning in the 1960s. He was named an honorary director of the gallery in 1991.

He was active in fundraising for the American Red Cross, Hallwalls, the United Way, the Hotchkiss School and Yale.

He was a past president of the Buffalo Tennis and Squash Club, an honorary member of the Country Club of Buffalo and the Mid Day Club of Buffalo, and a member of the Yale Club of New York City and the Saturn Club.

He was a past president of the Yale Association of Western New York.

He enjoyed tennis, squash, skiing and golf.

His wife of 64 years, the former Melissa Wickser, taught at Calasanctius, was assistant to the director of the libraries at the University at Buffalo and was co-owner of the art gallery Les Copains. She died in 2011.

Survivors include a daughter, Melissa; two sons, Charles W. and Philip L.; and eight grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 4:30 p.m. July 9 at the Country Club of Buffalo, 250 Youngs Road, Amherst.

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