James E. Sauer, 40-year veteran of the United States Army and experienced aviator committed to the community | Featured Obituaries






July 12, 1961 – April 26, 2022

After a career spanning more than 40 years in the U.S. military and stints during that time as a pilot in the State Police and National Guard, James Sauer turned to another way of serving and protecting the others.

In 2020, the “retired” Churchville resident began working as a pilot for Mercy Flight, a nonprofit air ambulance company headquartered in Western New York.

According to family and friends, this decision did not surprise them at all. After all, Mr. Sauer has always dedicated his life to serving his country and those in need.

Those who knew him say he saved many lives and became one of the most accomplished aviators they ever knew.

“There really wasn’t anything he didn’t do that he didn’t do very well,” said Bill Accuosti, who served with Mr. Sauer in National Guard aviation units. and State Police and on two combat deployments, as well as flying with him on his final flight as an Army Airman.

Mr. Sauer was killed on Tuesday, along with Bell Helicopter instructor and pilot Stewart Dietrick of Prosper, Texas, during an annual Mercy Flight training session at Elba. Both men were 60 years old.

“Here’s the thing – he didn’t have to be at Mercy Flight,” said Thomas Labelle, a Mercy Flight flight physician, who a week earlier had teamed up with Mr. Sauer on a call from flight. “He was with the state police, the Rochester police, the US military; he was done, but he was quite young and he felt he had that skill and just had to use it to give back to the community.

Son of the late Eugene and Joyce (Lindsay) Sauer, the Rochester-area native graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational management.

Mr. Sauer began his career in 1979 serving in the military and served in multiple deployments to the Middle East for operations such as Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Restore Hope and Desert Storm.

He previously served with the Rochester and Holley Police Departments and as a volunteer firefighter. He flew for the State Police for nearly 20 years until his retirement in 2020.

Mr. Sauer was an experienced pilot, having also flown with the US National Guard, Bill Law Aviation and American Eagle. He was a master helicopter pilot, an aircraft instructor pilot, and had experience flying jet aircraft.

“I was very impressed with his knowledge. I was very impressed with his passion for theft,” Allegany County Deputy Sheriff Scott Cicirello said at an event Saturday in Elba honoring Mr. Sauer and Mr. Dietrick by the bereavement first responders.

Labelle said the first responder community is grappling with what happened, especially those like him who were one of the first people at the scene of the accident. It hits even closer to home at Mercy Flight, which he says is a family atmosphere where everyone knows each other and each other’s families.

“Jim was a go-getter,” Labelle said. “He was the kind of guy who, if he was awake, would do something for somebody. No way. They don’t do ’em like that anymore.

Mr. Sauer was married to the former Marie Ogden for 39 years and had two children, a son, Joshua; and a daughter Laura Ames.

The couple loved farming and they were always eager to try new adventures.

Mr. Sauer was a member of the Open Door Baptist Church in Churchville.

He is also survived by three sisters, Karen Schultz, Susan Flagg and Shirley Vetere; one brother, Gerry, and six grandchildren.

“The family is very grateful for the outpouring of support from the community at this very difficult time for them,” said Accuosti, who had known Mr. Sauer for 25 years and spoke on behalf of his family. “They love Jimmy very much and knew he really loved his community, his state and his country.”

A funeral service for Mr. Sauer will be held Monday at 1 p.m. at the Open Door Baptist Church, 350 Scottsville-Chili Road. At approximately 11:45 a.m., the cortege will leave the Thomas E. Burger Funeral Home, 735 East Ave., Hilton, heading for the church. Those who wish can line up along the route to pay their respects.

The service will include the Rochester and New York State Police, members of Mercy Flight, a series of fire trucks with flags draped over their vehicles, and additional agencies from across the state. The First Drum Honor Guard will fire a 21-gun salute and there will be a State Police flyover.

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