Margaret Valone will be missed

Submitted Photo Margaret Valone is pictured with the Spirit of Fredonia Award she received in 2015.

As most readers undoubtedly know, on Dec. 31, the OBSERVER’s beloved columnist Margaret Valone left this realm to join the family she wrote so eloquently about since 2003.

Although many people knew her well, Margaret felt that she should write her own obituary because only she knew the full extent of her community involvement. Her final column below is the culmination of more than one draft. Thank you to her dear friend Carol McCormick for organizing the material.

Margaret always loved the idea of being a teacher, and, indeed she was. I had the privilege of being her typist and friend for the last four years. I can attest to the power of her ideas and the widespread influence she had. As recently as Tuesday, before her death had become public knowledge, the OBSERVER received a letter of appreciation regarding her column published the previous weekend.

One of Margaret’s most memorable columns explored her views on the phrase, “have a good day.” She felt that the words stopped short. Instead, she proposed, “have a great life!” For several months, that was her sign-off sentence.

So, as you read her memories of her 92 years, note her example and accept her challenge to “have a great life!” She certainly did.

Vicki Notaro, Lifestyles Assistant

Margaret Valone’s Obituary

Margaret (Leone) Valone died at the Chautauqua Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Dec. 31, 2017.

She was born June 28, 1925, the daughter of Giacomo Leone and Mary Grace (Christina) Leone. Her parents had eight children. They were Grace Leone, Louise Leone Jeffrey, the first Rose Leone, Russell Leone, the second Rose Leone Murphy, Anthony (Olga) Leone, Josephine (John) Christopher and Margaret (Russell) Valone. All except Josephine and Margaret were born in Italy. Of her siblings, only Josephine survives.

Margaret used to say, “I was born in Fredonia and I’m going to die in Fredonia.” She loved Fredonia! She spent one year in Dunkirk following her marriage to Russell Valone on July 14, 1946.

Margaret and her husband Russell had two sons: Russell who was killed in 1978 and Daniel (Dorothy) Valone of St. Augustine, Florida. Margaret’s two granddaughters are Charlene (Charles) Brownson and Lori (John) Cantrell. Charlene and Chas have a son, Liam.

After Margaret’s son Rusty (Russell) passed away, his widow, Barbara, married Rev. Thomas Knickerbocker. They have three children: Charity, Luke (also a Reverend) and Marjorie. Margaret called Tom her “son in love” and she loved all the children and grandchildren as her own. They gave her much joy.

At the age of 11, Margaret started her public life when she joined Mr. Delure’s amateur group at which she learned stage presence, relating to audiences when singing and tap dancing.

All her life, she had wanted to be a teacher. At the age of 11, “Little Teacher” helped her sister, Louise Jeffrey, teach her citizenship class. A great thrill was teaching her student in the Literacy program how to tell time by using money as minutes.

She graduated with high honors from Fredonia Central in 1943 and then attended State Teacher’s College at Fredonia for two years and was named to the Dean’s List.

Mrs. Valone lived her life to the fullest. She was involved in owning her own beauty salon, in educational affairs, village restoration, member of committees, organizer of various events, civic affairs, travel, recreational and writing activities. Margaret never stopped learning.

As a mother, she was very active in P.T.A. as president and she was the recipient of a lifetime membership. She was also a den mother. She served as president of the Fredonia High School Scholarship several times.

Margaret always loved a challenge. At the age of 20, she was co-owner and manager of Mar-Val Beauty Salon. In 1945, when her brother and sister needed a hairdresser manager for their beauty salon connected to Ricky’s Dress Shoppe, she attended Robert’s Beauty School in Buffalo. She only went to beauty school three weeks instead of six months. But she went to Paris, France to L’Oreal’s haircoloring school. In 1969, she attended the Managerial School of Merle Norman Cosmetics in Los Angeles, then added a cosmetic studio to the beauty salon.

In 1975, she lobbied in Albany for the right to cut men’s hair. After successful lobbying, she and her husband changed their salon’s name to Mar-Val Unisex Beauty Salon. They were the first in the area to buy a hair coloring machine and they were the first to sell and service wigs. She attended beauty shows and classes whenever possible. Her late husband, Russ, had to learn about the construction of wigs and sold them all over Western New York. He also managed a beauty salon in Silver Creek and another in the Thruway Plaza.

Margaret received many honors and awards.

She received a Community Leadership Award from the New York State Hairdressers Association twice. She received the Jiggs Dengler Award for Community Service 1978 and the Business Person of the Year Award from Fredonia State in 1979. She was the first woman to receive this award. She was appointed to the First Small Business Commission in the County in 1982 (the only woman).

She was chairman of the Chautauqua Tourism Commission 1976 and was appointed Director of Chautauqua Opportunities Inc. 1981 to 1984.

Her special projects included: Chairman of the Housing Study for the Elderly. This led to One Temple Square becoming a reality in 1972. In 1976, she was Chairman of the Bicentennial Committee. In 1979, Margaret became chairman of the Sesquicentennial Committee. (The committee planned a special activity for every month of the year.)

Mrs. Valone and her husband, Russ, helped change the face of Main Street in Fredonia. In 1977, Margaret and Russell purchased the O’Connell building and converted it into four businesses plus offices upstairs. In 1978, they bought out the burned-out area in the Fredonia Main Street business section, cleared it of all liens and made it ready for development. In 1983, she built a new building in the former burned-out area (the only building permit issued in 1983). They also became the landlords of a three apartment house on White Street.

In 1984, she was named chairman of Economic Development for COI and was a member of the Community Coalition of the Fredonia Central School. She was also a member of the Cable Commission and of the Selection Committee for a sister city in Germany. She served on the Fredonia Central School Board of Education from 1994 to 1997.

Some of the organizations Margaret served on included the Citizens’ Advisory Committee 1972-1980, Director of League of Women Voters (also charter member), secretary and treasurer of Fredonia Organization of Retailers College Community Relations Committee nine years, Director of the first Board of Northern Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce and President of the Dunkirk-Fredonia Hairdressers Association #60 several times (whenever needed).

Margaret was active in the Chautauqua-Italian American Organization. She was president for 11 years. During that time, she organized the Italian Festivals. Her partner was Charles Sturniolo. The volunteers were sensational. Among the outstanding workers were Igi Parisi, Josephine Christopher (sister), Dorothea Janzak (best friend), Ray Bellioti, Len Catalano and Dorothy Conti Bova was always to the rescue. Margaret always said, “A good leader is only as good as her followers. They made me look good.”

Margaret loved to travel. Sometimes she went as a tourist and sometimes as an organizer of tours along with Igi Parisi. It was so much fun! She went to Italy 10 times (from Switzerland to Valledolmo, Sicily). She went to France, England three times, to Java, Indonesia, Jakarta, Bangkok, Thailand, Hong Kong, Bali, Tokyo, Singapore, Hiroshima and Kuola Lumpur (capital of Malaysia). In 2000, she went for a visit to Cairo to see her cousins, Michele and Diana Joy. She enjoyed a cruise down the Nile River and later went to Jerusalem.

Margaret was an active member of First Baptist Church of Dunkirk, which she joined in 1978. They were her church family. She also was speaker for Christian Women Luncheons. In 2013, she received from the ALLUW of the University at Fredonia the Grace Stearns Saxton Award for outstanding contributions to the community. In 2014, she was guest speaker for the banquet honoring the Business Person of the year.

In 2015, she received the Fredonia Chamber of Commerce “Spirit of Fredonia Award.”

For several years, she made hospital visits to the sick weekly at Brooks Memorial.

Also, on Sundays, she had dinner for those who were alone and those who had lost their families.

When the boys (her sons) were young, the family took in Fresh Air boys from New York City for several years.

Margaret was also involved in many activities. She loved dancing, singing, all kinds of music and sports. In seventh grade, she made the All Star Baseball team as a pitcher, and in college, she was an All Star basketball player. She also was an avid Buffalo Bills fan. She was the “pie lady” of the Fredonia Farm Festival.

At the end of her seventies, Margaret started writing. Her first book was called “Keep Laughing-Suture Self;” the second was “Life is Sugar and Vinegar;” and the third was “The Soup of Life.” She also wrote two plays, the first of which was performed in the Fredonia Auditorium. She also wrote skits trying to teach Bible Stories through drama. Lastly, the greatest joy of her life was writing a weekly column for the OBSERVER. The response was more than she ever expected.

Friends and family are invited to the Fantauzzi Funeral Home at 82 East Main St. in Fredonia on Friday, Jan. 12 from 3 to 6 p.m. Funeral services will be held at the First Baptist Church of Dunkirk at 876 Central Ave. on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 11 a.m.

Margaret has requested that instead of flowers, donations in her memory can be made to the Central Christian Academy or the First Baptist Church of Dunkirk, N.Y.