Buffalo, NY- The greater Western New York community is mourning the loss of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson.
Wilson is the only American Football League founder who kept his team tied to its original city. His deeply rooted ties to the Buffalo community and major charitable efforts in the city have earned Wilson humanitarian and philanthropic awards throughout his life.
Wilson's impact on Western New York came in the form of the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation that was established in 1952 on a mission to support non-profit organizations and promote educational programs int he form of grants, the Ralph Wilson Medical Research Foundation which has contributed more than $10 million to bio-medical research and the Ralph Wilson Jr. Scholarship at Canisius College.
Other charitable work includes thousands of dollars in grants to improve athletic fields in the Buffalo area and contributions to the Food Bank of WNY, the United Way, Ronald McDonald House, Shea's Performing Art Center, SPCA of Erie County and the Hospice Center of Western New York, among other benefactors.
A strong advocate of education and community involvement, Wilson had a steadfast loyalty to the Buffalo Bills and its fans.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued the following statement about Wilson's passing:
"Today we lost a legendary member of the New York family. Ralph Wilson Jr., the last remaining original team owner of an AFL franchise, member of the NFL Hall of Fame, and founder of the Buffalo Bills, gave us a team that has been the pride of Western New York for the past 54 years. The Bills remain, to this day, an economic engine for the region, generating revenue and providing jobs at a stadium that will bear Mr. Wilson's name for years to come. From his military service during World War II, to his ownership of the Bills, Mr. Wilson left a legacy of leadership that helped keep the team in Buffalo for more than half a century. His passion for football and dedication to his community epitomized the spirit of the Buffalo Bills and their fans. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends and the entire Bills organization."
Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula also issued a statement about Wilson's passing:
"The entire Buffalo Sabres organization was saddened to learn of the passing of Ralph Wilson, Jr. His contributions to the city of Buffalo over his 50-plus years of owning the Bills were immeasurable and his legacy in Western New York and the sports world will be long-lasting. With his passion for the game and never-ending loyalty to the great fans of Buffalo, he embodied what all owners in sports strive to be. On behalf of the Buffalo Sabres, we would like to offer heartfelt condolences to his wife, Mary, the Wilson family and everyone in the Buffalo Bills organization."