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Paul B. McGavis, 94, telephone company switchman, union leader

Paul B. McGavis, 94, telephone company switchman, union leader

July 30, 1925 – Dec. 19, 2019

Paul B. McGavis, a telephone company switchman who served as president of two union locals, died Dec. 19 in his home in Dunkirk. He was 94.

Born in Buffalo, he was a 1943 graduate of South Park High School. He was proud of posting the highest score in Western New York on the exam for Navy applicants during his junior year, but was turned down for enlistment for medical reasons.

As a teen, he was a mechanic at Cooley Motors, a Ford dealership in Buffalo. He became the chief union steward at the shop and, at age 25, was elected president of Local 122, United Auto Workers. He also started his own radio and television repair business on the side.

In 1957, he was hired as a mechanic at New York Telephone Co. When the company learned of his side business, he was promoted to telephone switchman. He assisted in the company’s transition from mechanical switches to computers. He retired from Verizon Wireless in 1989.

Mr. McGavis was elected vice president of Local 1122, Communication Workers of America, in 1964 and became president of the local in 1966. He served another term as vice president in 1972 and was selected as a chief steward for CWA Local 1115 in the early 1980s.

He received the E. J. Mays Memorial Award from the Western New York CWA Council in 1983 for his dedication to the labor movement.

A former Hamburg resident, he moved to Cherry Creek in the mid-1980s and served a five-year term on the Pine Valley Central School Board of Education. He lived in the Dunkirk-Fredonia area since the mid-2000s.

Before losing his sight six years ago, his hobbies included computers and genealogy. He also was an avid Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres fan.

Survivors include his wife of 50 years, the former Amy Blake, who owned a ceramics studio in Hamburg; a daughter, Amy Walters; five stepsons, Mike McGavis, Douglas Cymny, Dennis McGavis, Bryan McGavis and Arthur Cymny; three stepdaughters, Carol Kolodziej, Bonnie Benoit and Gayle Wortman; 22 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.

A Memorial Mass will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 25 in Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 1031 Central Ave., Dunkirk.

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