Peter Stanley “Buffalo” Balcunas, 69, of Davie, Fla., passed away on March 28, 2016
By Digna Balcunas
Mr. Peter Stanley “Buffalo” Balcunas was born in Brockton, Mass. in July 1946 to the late Walter and Ellen Balcunas.
In 1966 he enlisted in the US Marine Corps after attending Murray State University and served as an infantryman in the Vietnam War. He later served in the US Marine Corps Reserve with the Fourth Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, retiring with the rank of Master Sergeant after more than two decades of distinguished service.
In 1976, he earned a Criminal Justice degree from then Broward Community College and joined the long blue line at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, where he used to describe his job as “enforcing the law and to protect life and property”. His greatest love was working and dedicating his free time to the Northwest Fort Lauderdale area.
He began working specifically with the youth of the area when he was off duty in the evenings. He would chain up a punching bag that he kept in the trunk of his patrol vehicle to the chin-up bars at Sunland Middle School. Youngsters often came over to hit the bag. He started a following that would eventually lead to a longstanding reputation as a well-respected public servant and mentor.
After boxing as both an amateur and professionally in the early 1970’s, Balcunas began a career as a boxing coach at LA Lee YMCA and Sunland Park (Carter Park). He had boxers that competed in tournaments such as the US Olympic Trials and earning State and National Championships. His career as a coach and USA Boxing official extended into the Florida Gold Coast Amateur Boxing Association, Florida Golden Gloves Association, and the Olympic Training Center, in Colorado Springs, Colo. He was selected to coach the USA Boxing Team at the 1995 Pan American Games in Argentina and 1998 Goodwill Games in New York and was the First Alternate Coach for the 2000 Sydney, Australia Summer Olympics. He also coached international boxing programs in Vanuatu and Tonga and managed USA boxing teams for tournaments in England, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.
“Buffalo” would work patrol in the evenings and off-duty details at night with boxing in between. During the day he would work at Dillard High School and Fort Lauderdale High School where he positively influenced the lives of countless students. He would console some of the students who were struggling with various problems and would go to court with others to ask for second chances for the mistakes they made. He was later assigned to Community Development and was also involved with Home Owners Meetings. Later, Balcunas worked as a School Resource Officer at Stranahan High School.
Near the end of Balcunas’ career, he became the project director for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department’s Juvenile Alternative Motivation (JAM) program. This program dedicated its efforts to improve the Northwest and Southland Park areas with funding for playgrounds, after school and summer activities, performing arts, academic competitions, and athletics. There were over 400 youth involved in the JAM program at that time.
Balcunas retired from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department in 2004, committing 28 years to the community he so adored. Until he passed away he was still coaching young boxers at the Davie Police Athletic League (PAL) Boxing Club. He was quoted as saying he loved being approached by members of the community with whom he interacted with from his past saying, “Buffalo, I want you to meet my [son, daughter grandson or granddaughter]”. He would sigh and reflect, “My! How the time goes by.” Many of his friends, family, and the community credit “Buffalo” for saving their lives, offering them opportunities for greater futures.
He is survived by his wife, Digna D. Balcunas of Davie; two sons, Eric P. Balcunas of Arlington, Vir. and Joseph A. Balcunas of Medina, Tenn.; two daughters, Annalia B. Balcunas of Davie, Fla. and Cristina G. Jones of Franklin, Tenn.; two grandchildren, Jillian and Jonathan Balcunas of Medina, Tenn.; three sisters, Lynn Baker of Naples, Fla., Janice Aveyard of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Susan Balcunas of New York, N.Y., and numerous nieces and nephews.