In Memoriam

Richard Cammarata

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01/23/16 02:58 PM #1    

Gary Aikin

Dick was one of my close friends in Lockport.  We met and became friends at Emmet Belknap Junior High School and our friendship continued into our sophomore year at Lockport Senior High School.  Dick and I shared a mutual interest in electronics and amateur radio.  Sadly, Dick died in an early morning one-car automobile accident on the last day of our sophomore year, June 22, 1964.

That day Dick’s friend Bob DeMarco (a Senior, Class of 1964) was giving Dick a ride to school in a Karmann Ghia convertible sports car.  Dick and Bob were on their way to get their report cards for the spring semester.  However, something caused Bob to lose control of the car and the car crashed, hitting a utility pole and rolling over twice.  The accident occurred near the intersection of Willow Street and Locust Street.  The car had no hard roof (the leather roof was rolled down) and probably no seat belts.  Bob survived the crash but Dick did not.  Bob recovered from his injuries and died many years later in 1992.   There is no doubt in my mind that Bob was always haunted by the accident.

I remember that when I arrived at LSHS that day, word was getting around about the accident, but little was yet known about the conditions of Bob and Dick.  I and several others of Dick’s friends started talking about how we would borrow some portable ham radio equipment and bring it to Dick in the hospital for him to use while he recovered.  That idea evaporated when someone came into the room of my Solid Geometry teacher Mr. Palmiter (Dick’s homeroom teacher) and told us that Dick had died.

I’ll provide, on the “Links to our LSHS Days” page of this reunion website, links to two newspaper pages with articles about the accident.

Dick’s and my ham radio friend Roger Brath (of the Class of 1965) attended the funeral Mass for Dick at St. Mary’s Church in Lockport.  Dick’s remains are buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Lockport.  The remains of Dick’s parents, Santo “Sandy” Cammarata and Jennie Marasco Cammarata, are buried there as well.

Dick, his parents and his younger brothers Gary Cammarata and Robert “Bob” Cammarata lived in a house on the south side of Willow Street in Lockport, near Transit Street.  Dick, Bill Caton and I spent many hours in the basement of the Cammarata home talking about radio/electronics, school activities and many other topics.  Sometimes we played pool on the Cammarata family pool table.  Dick liked to gather and trade electronic parts and equipment, especially surplus military electronic equipment.  Dick, Bill and I, and sometimes Roger, attended together the monthly meetings of the Lockport Amateur Radio Association (LARA) in the basement of the Civil Defense Building near the Niagara County Court House.  Many times after the meetings we would go to Pontillo’s for Pizza.  We also often enjoyed pizza in the Cammarata basement.

Dick had many ham radio friends in Lockport.  I remember going with Dick to visit some of them, including Dick Ruston and Joe Butera.

He enjoyed chatting on the telephone.  I remember many phone conversations with Dick from the Aikin family home at 415 High Street (at the corner of High Street and Beattie Avenue).

He was very skilled at drywall construction and electrical wiring.  He helped me fix up an area in the basement of the Aikin family home for my ham radio station.  That would not have been possible without Dick’s expertise and assistance.

Dick was always friendly, always willing to help people and always had a positive attitude.  It was clear that he enjoyed life.

Dick’s parents and uncles owned and operated the Modern Dry Cleaners and Laundry on Buffalo Street.  The building in earlier days had been a roller skating rink.  After school and on weekends Dick worked at Modern Dry Cleaners doing sweeping and picking up trash.  When Dick and his parents and brothers went on summer vacation, at various times Roger and I filled in for Dick.  After Dick died I took over Dick’s job at Modern Dry Cleaners for a year.

The Modern Dry Cleaners building became a victim of the Urban Renewal activities in Lockport in the late 1960s.  After losing Modern Dry Cleaners, Dick’s parents, with the help of their sons Gary and Bob, started two new businesses on Robinson Road, Cammarata’s Restaurant and the Cammarata Travel Agency.  Eventually Gary took over the travel agency and Bob took over the restaurant.  It appears that the travel agency is no longer around (probably a victim of the Internet revolution), but Cammarata’s Restaurant is still thriving and is recognized as one of the better restaurants in the Lockport area.

Dick’s mother and father died in 1996 and 2005 respectively.  Dick’s brothers Gary and Bob continue to live in the Lockport area.

After Dick died his father Sandy asked if I might have a picture of Dick for use at the funeral home visitation.  Sadly Dick’s parents had no picture of him, and unfortunately neither did I.  This morning our classmate and Class President Chris Dix emailed me a photo that Chris’s wife Masako had scanned from the Class of 1964 “Forum” yearbook.  The photo was the group picture for Mr. Palimiter’s sophomore (Class of 1966) homeroom.  One of the people in the picture was Dick.  (Another of the people was Bill Caton.)  To the best of my knowledge this photo is the only known photo of Dick.  I am most grateful to Chris and Masako for providing the picture.  Later today I will be sharing the photo with Bob Cammarata, Roger Brath and some of our Class of 1966 classmates who knew Dick.

Dick was a good friend and a good person.  His life came to an end way too soon.

Gary Aikin  23-Jan-2016

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