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Ex-sheriff's deputy, veteran who died of Covid-19 recalled as family man

Richard Charles Canazzi survived the Vietnam War and the exposure to Agent Orange that led to his Parkinson's disease.

He survived a year of being shuttled around to different hospitals and rehab centers.

But contracting Covid-19 proved too much for the former Erie County sheriff's deputy.

His son, Richard "Rich" Canazzi, recalled speaking with his father two weekends ago. When they talked, he told his father he loved him and promised to call back later because his father was having difficulty holding the phone for long.

He didn't get that chance. His father, who was married and had six children and a stepdaughter, died on April 22 at the Buffalo VA Medical Center without any of them. He was 69.

"That’s the hardest thing," the son said. "He loved his family like you wouldn’t believe."

Canazzi was born in Buffalo, graduated from South Park High School and was a lifelong South Buffalo resident. He was drafted and served a little over a year in the Vietnam War as a member of the Army cavalry. While there, he contracted malaria, was treated stateside and was sent back.

"It was brutal," said his son, who serves as president of the Erie County blue-collar union. "It was a lot of chaos, a lot of confusion."

Canazzi moved on to a career as a sheriff's deputy from the mid-1980s through 2005. Once, while off duty, he noticed a disheveled kid walking down South Park Avenue and asked about his welfare. He eventually learned the young man had pulled a gun on a student at South Park High and held him for the Buffalo police, said Rich Canazzi.

After his father retired for health reasons, Canazzi was well enough to continue his pursuits as an outdoorsman, hunting and fishing for a few years. He was also present for many family events. But his physical ailments, many of which resulted from the war, caught up with him.

"He put up a nice fight," his son said.

Canazzi was diagnosed with Covid-19 two Saturdays ago and later placed on a ventilator, but he did not improve. His family honored his wishes to not extend extraordinary life-saving treatment.

"He couldn't hold on anymore," his son said.

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