Buffalo Naval Park honors memory of Lieutenant Commander Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. with dedication of new display, free admission to park

Buffalo Naval Park honors memory of Lieutenant Commander Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. with dedication of new display, free admission to park

BUFFALO, N.Y. – May 11, 2017 – The Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park hosted an unveiling of a new display to honor the memory and naval career of Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.

Buffalo Naval Park honors, Ralph Wilson Jr, Free Admission, BNMP

Captain Brian Roche announces that Friday, May 12 – and every Friday of WNY’s Armed Forces Week thereafter – will now be known as Lieutenant Commander Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Day at the park, and will include free admission for all.

LCDR Wilson, who left a gift to the Naval Park upon his passing in 2014, was a proud veteran who rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy and served as Commanding Officer of a World War II Minesweeper, the USS Picket, from March 1945 to January 1946.

The new display was unveiled during a ceremony in the Hangar Building, the future site of the Naval Park’s new Hall of Honor, currently in the design stages.  The ceremony included a presentation of colors by the Maritime Charter School Honor Guard and a performance of the National Anthem by Buffalo Dolls Vocalist Donna Kerr

Also, a surprise announcement was made to the public and to Mrs. Mary Wilson, LCDR Wilson’s widow, that tomorrow — and the Friday of every annual Western New York Armed Forces Week thereafter — will now be known as “LCDR Ralph C. Wilson Day” at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park.  On that day, admission will be free for all visitors, to honor his legacy.

“By creating this day, we hope to immortalize LCDR Wilson for generations to come, so that we will always remember how much he meant to and cared for Western New York,” said Captain Brian Roche, Executive Director of the Naval Park.  “We are honored to display his personal military effects here at the park, and we thank his family for their generosity in sharing and entrusting these items to us.”

To commemorate the occasion, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown read a city proclamation.   Proclamations were also delivered from the New York State Senate and Assembly via Senator Chris Jacobs’ office and Assemblywoman Monica Wallace’s office, respectively.  Representatives from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz were also on hand to mark the occasion, as were members of the park’s board of directors and staff.

“It is wonderful and heartwarming to see the support from our elected officials regarding this initiative,” added Naval Park Board Chairman Don Alessi.  “They understand how great of an impact LCDR Wilson had on this community, and the pride he felt for his military and civic service.”

The Naval Park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the end of October.  Its World War II era ships include the USS Little Rock — the only guided missile cruiser on display in the U.S. today; the USS The Sullivans, a destroyer named after five brothers who died when their ship sank during the Battle of the Solomon Islands; and the USS Croaker, a Gato-class submarine.  A variety of military vehicles and aircraft are also on display, in addition to a museum building filled with artifacts, interactive exhibits and historical information spanning virtually all of our nation’s wars and military conflicts.

Buffalo Naval Park honors, Ralph Wilson Jr, Free Admission, BNMP

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown reads a proclamation announcing that Friday, May 12 would be Lieutenant Commander Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Day in the City of Buffalo.

Buffalo Naval Park honors, Ralph Wilson Jr, Free Admission, BNMP

From left, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Naval Park Board Chairman Don Alessi, Mary Wilson, and Naval Park Executive Director Brian Roche unveil the new display dedicated to Lieutenant Commander Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.




Nickel City Opera at the Buffalo Naval Park

“The Impresario” by Mozart on board the USS Little Rock! Enjoy an evening on board the USS LITTLE ROCK at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park with the short hilarious opera “The Impresario” about the backstage difficulties of producing an opera! Bring a date or your family. Presented in English with English dialogue. Don’t miss this special evening at one of the most picturesque venues in WNY. Finger Foods and Cash Bar.

www.eventbrite.com or at the door USS Little Rock-on board!
Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park One Naval Park Cove Buffalo, NY
$25 General Admission

Buffalo Naval Park announces passing of Colonel Patrick J. Cunningham

Buffalo Naval Park announces passing of Colonel Patrick J. Cunningham

Served as Executive Director since 1993; Captain Brian W. Roche named new director

Buffalo, N.Y. – March 24, 2017 – Colonel Patrick J. Cunningham, who spent 30 years in active military service with the U.S. Army, and served as Executive

Colonel Patrick J Cunningham, Colonel Patrick J. Cunningham, Buffalo Naval Park, Buffalo Naval and Military Park

Colonel Patrick J. Cunningham, who served as Executive Director of the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park since 1993, has died. He would have been 79 on April 1.

Director of the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park since 1993, has died. He would have been 79 on April 1.

Colonel Cunningham, who grew up in Kenmore, N.Y., returned to Buffalo in 1989 after retiring from the U.S. Army, with which he held a variety of sensitive and demanding command and staff positions, including 13 years at the Pentagon. His assignments there included handling the budget for all active duty and retired Army personnel, and coordinator of new and innovative projects for the Department of Army Inspector General. His Washington tours culminated in successive assignments as Executive Officer for the Director of the Army Budget, and subsequently, the Comptroller of the Army. His last five years of active duty were spent as Garrison Commander and Chief of Staff of Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. The Colonel’s military decorations include the Legion of Merit with three oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters.

“Colonel Cunningham will be remembered in Buffalo for his tireless efforts at building the Buffalo Naval Park into the wonderful education and historic attraction it is today,” said Naval Park Board Chairman Donald A. Alessi. “He was instrumental in moving the park from its former site underneath the Skyway to its beautiful current location. He spent a career in service and sacrifice to his country — and he continued that commitment throughout his retirement. His vision turned our Naval Park – which is today the largest inland Naval Park in the U.S. — into the crown jewel we have on our waterfront today.”

Colonel Cunningham’s passing comes, ironically, on the eve of the opening ceremony for the Naval Park’s 2017 season. The event, which will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the arrival of its first two ships, the USS Little Rock and USS The Sullivans, and posthumously honor the roles of three servicemen who were instrumental in the delivery of these ships to Buffalo’s Harbor, will now include a dedication of the 2017 season to the memory and spirit of Colonel Cunningham.

“Many years ago when the park was struggling financially, Colonel Cunningham used his own money to make ends meet — to literally keep us above water. And he did so without a word or expectation of thanks,” added Chairman Alessi. “Today, and for years to come, the greater Buffalo community and Western New York Veterans owe him a great deal of thanks and gratitude.”

Colonel Cunningham was a graduate of Canisius College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. He went on to earn an M.B.A. from Syracuse University in Comptrollership, in addition to completing U.S. Army Command and General Staff college.

In addition to the Naval Park, he served numerous organizations in many capacities, including past president of the Historic Naval Ships Association, Military Officers Association of Western New York, Navy League, and the New York State Council of Chapters, Military Officers Association of America. He also belonged to the Greater Niagara Frontier Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, American Legion, and Rotary Club of Buffalo. He also served as a game official for both High School basketball and football in Western New York.

He was pre-deceased by his wife of 53 years, Shelia, with whom he had five children.

The Buffalo Naval Park Board of Directors met Thursday evening and named Captain Brian W. Roche as its new Executive Director, naming Colonel Cunningham as Executive Director Emeritus in the process.

Captain Roche served for 36 years in the United States Coast Guard, rising through the ranks of Seaman Apprentice (E-2) to Captain (O-6). He is an accomplished leader and dynamic planner with unique team building skills and broad experience in fiscal management, operational execution, human resources and risk management. He came to Buffalo in 2013 as Chief Executive Officer/Sector Commander of the Coast Guard’s Sector Buffalo, were he managed 1,200 employees accomplishing missions across 540 miles of coastline, including 2,300 search and rescue efforts. He retired in 2016. His selection comes at the recommendation of Colonel Cunningham, whose declining health had been eminent.

Captain Roche most recently served as Vice President with Harkon, Inc., where he oversaw human resource doctrine development/review and international training program management. He resides in Clarence Center with his family.

To learn more about the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, including the Colonel Patrick J. Cunningham Legacy Society, visit www.buffalonavalpark.org or call (716) 847-1773.



The Buffalo and Erie County Military and Naval Park takes you inside history with incredible exhibits and displays including actual historic documents, uniforms, military gear, photographs and so much more. Its mission is to honor veterans and inspire citizens. It fosters an appreciation of the U.S. Armed Forces in the community by promoting visits to the Park and taking part in activities related directly or indirectly to military affairs. It also promotes and fosters an interest in historic Armed Forces artifacts of our nation. For those interested in supporting the Naval Park by volunteering or making a gift, please call 716-847-1773 or visit www.buffalonavalpark.org/support-us.

Buffalo Naval & Military Park will be opening earlier this March

The Buffalo Naval & Military Park will be opening earlier this year to accommodate the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament crowd. Our hours for the month of March are:

Thursday, March 16, 2017 – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Friday, March 17, 2017 – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Saturday, March 18, 2017 – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

The official opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony is still set for March 25th at 10:00 AM. We are excited to kick off the season and hope to see you soon!

Another Voice: Naval Park needs donors to help preserve history

Source: The Buffalo News
By: Patrick Cunningham and Donald Alessi
Date: January 13, 2017

For over three decades, the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park sat as downtown’s lone waterfront attraction. Now Buffalo’s waterfront is the place to be, year-round.

Buffalo boasts the world’s largest inland naval park. In addition to our three major ships, there are 13 memorials, tanks, planes and helicopters, and our Wall of Honor. Our museum contains exhibits from World War II, the Civil War, the War of 1812 – and soon, World War I – all honoring our veterans’ sacrifices.

Since opening in 1979, the park has hosted over 1,000 reunions, corporate/private parties, veterans’ honor ceremonies and U.S. citizenship ceremonies. Over 75,000 Scouts/Sea Cadets have slept aboard our ships, and our Memorial Walk of Heroes and Promenade attracts over a million annual visitors.

Click for full article

Naval Park Remembers Pearl Harbor, 75 Years Later

Source: WBFO 88.7
By: Michael Mroziak
Date: December 7, 2016

Two World War II veterans were recognized during the ceremony. One of them, John Lukasik of North Tonawanda, delivered keynote remarks. He recalled being in a movie theater with a friend when the news broke of Japan’s attack on the island of Oahu. Also recognized at Wednesday morning’s ceremony was Frank Klinger, who served on the USS Phoenix. He was presented with a special recognition by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Click for full article and audio clip on WBFO 88.7


Buffalo Naval Park Remembers THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY of the attack on Pearl Harbor with a Event

On December 7, 2016, Wednesday at 10 AM, the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park and Erie County Veteran Services will hold an event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Attack on Pearl harbor. We will need honoring the 2,403 American service members that died and the 1,178 that were wounded that day in Hawaii. The event will include a presentation, the National Anthem performed by Buffalo Dolls and will be followed by light refreshments.

Buffalo Sabres Say ‘Thank You For Your Service’ with a Visit to the Naval Park

Several of the Buffalo Sabres visited the VA Hospital and the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park this week for a Military Appreciation event. While at the Park, they engaged with veterans as well as volunteers. Another group of Sabres players visited the VA Hospital, talking with vets, showing their respect and support for our country’s military men and women.

View the video on The Buffalo Sabres website to see more.

Judge Robert Russell Lecture

Many people visited the Buffalo Naval Park on July 22nd to see the honorable Judge Robert Russell’s lecture about the issues that face many veterans, specifically female veterans. Judge Russell created the nation’s first Veterans Treatment Court who’s mission is to successfully habilitate veterans by diverting them from the traditional criminal justice system and providing them with the tools they need in order to lead a productive and law-abiding lifestyle.

Judge Russell’s presentation entitled “Buffalo’s Veterans Treatment Court & The Women Who Appear Before It” covered many topics including Veteran criminal activity, drug use, mental illness, homelessness and more.

You can view the full powerpoint presentation here.