This year the Valley Community Association will be honoring five very special people who passed away this past year, who impacted the community, and were great supporters of the Valley at the 27th Annual “Old Neighborhood” St. Patrick’s Day Parade Sponsored by Labatt USA on Saturday, March 14th, 2020.

In Memoriam:

Christina “Chris” Chludzinski

A “heart of gold” is how one could describe Chris. She was always donating for this event and that event – either for the church, work, family or friends, she was always helping with her talents or with donating something. Chris’ crafting ability was fantastic – she could create something beautiful out of something very simple with amazing results.

Christina “Chris” Chludzinski was born and raised in the Valley Neighborhood.  She was the daughter of Johanna (nee Powroznik) and the late Alfred Groncke and attended St. Stephen’s School.  She was also a graduate of Sacred Heart Academy as well as Bryant & Stratton Business Institute. At the time of her death, Chris was an Account Supervisor at Livingston International, a Canadian Customs brokerage firm, located in Tonawanda, New York.

Even though Chris moved to Tonawanda, New York her heart was always in the Valley neighborhood where she grew up.  Chris was very active in St. Stephen’s Church, which eventually merged with St. Clare’s Parish and then at St. Teresa’s as well.  At St. Stephen’s, she served as a parish trustee, was a Eucharistic Minister, worked on the Bereavement Committee, helped with various fundraising events, and was the Chairperson of the weekly bingo held at the parish.  At St. Teresa’s, Chris continued her involvement with the new parish by helping at fundraisers by donating items and her time to the events, was a member of the Parish Council, and continued her role as a Eucharistic Minister.

A “heart of gold” is how one could describe Chris.  She was always donating for this event and that event – either for the church, work, family or friends, she was always helping with her talents or with donating something.  Chris’ crafting ability was fantastic – she could create something beautiful out of something very simple with amazing results. Chris and her heart of gold was always ready to help others, be there for friends, and was always willing to give her last dollar if someone needed it.  She was always there, even when she became sick she was always thinking of someone else who needed help.

Besides her many talents, Chris was an avid animal lover of all kinds – large or small, she loved them all.  In addition, Chris loved to bake, especially pies, and was a great candy maker, especially at Easter.

Chris also had a great love for card playing.  She ran the Friday Night Pinochle games at the Valley Community Center for years and organized the pinochle banquets and parties.

Chris is survived by her husband George; was a devoted mother to the late Gregory; was the niece of Genevieve Greaves and special cousin of Marilyn (Bill) Boccioletti and Genevieve (Bob) Jagodzinski; was best friend of Dolores Gajewski; and also is survived by sisters and brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews and other cousins.

Christina “Chris” Chludzinski

Fred Kurzanski

Fred’s greatest attribute as a father was his ability to let his kids play. Oftentimes he would tell the kids, “Go play. You have your whole life to work”. He allowed his children to explore all of their activities and sporting games. Fred went without so his children and family could have all they needed. He was a strong, selfless husband and father.

Fred was born May 2nd, 1941, the son of Valley residents Agnes and Ferdinand Kurzanski.  Fred spent most of his life as a cherished resident of the Valley neighborhood.  In 1960, Fred met the love of his life, Patricia Kempf and their marriage lasted 57 years until Fred’s untimely death on August 15th, 2019.

Fred was known for his toughness and integrity.  He worked more than 39 years at the Tonawanda Engine Plant as well as holding a second job as a ticket taker/usher at local sporting events and concerts.  Fred also spent 26 years as a pari-mutuel clerk at Buffalo Raceway in Hamburg, New York. Fred’s selfless work ethic and drive provided a fine upbringing on Fulton Street for his children Mark, Kraig, and Michelle.

Fred’s greatest attribute as a father was his ability to let his kids play.  Oftentimes he would tell the kids, “Go play. You have your whole life to work”.  He allowed his children to explore all of their activities and sporting games. Fred went without so his children and family could have all they needed.  He was a strong, selfless husband and father. This was further displayed when his wife Pat became ill in the 1990’s. Without complaint and with compassion, Fred provided the care his wife needed.  Trips to far-away places had ended, but Fred would always say to his wife “As long as you’re with me Chick, we will be okay”. He could not have been a better caretaker.

Fred was very active in the Valley Community.  When the “Rally in the Valley” fundraiser carnival came around every year, Fred and his good pal Frank Pezzimenti ran the show.  He and Frank loved every minute of their volunteer work. Even after Fred moved to Lancaster, New York, he continued to volunteer for his community.  A constant at Valley Bingo and on Wednesday nights at Buffalo River Fest Park, Fred enjoyed helping. He was a trusted and integral member of these events.  He often shared with anyone who would listen how much he enjoyed his volunteer work. At the “Old Neighborhood” Parade, a group of folks would create a yearly pool to see how many participants would shake Fred’s hand throughout the parade route.  People from all walks of life would come up to shake his hand and greet him. When Peg Overdorf or anyone would call Fred, he was there willing to help wherever needed.

Fred was a strong man filled with integrity who made the world better for all those he interacted with.  The Valley, friends and his family miss him very much. He enjoyed all of his friends and family and although gone too soon, he will always be known as “Fred from the Valley”.

Fred is survived by his wife Patricia; children Mark, Kraig (Mary Clare) and Michelle Kurzanski; grandchildren Ryan, Camille, Robert, Kathryn and Molly Kurzanski; great-granddaughter Eloise; siblings Philip (late Joanne) Kurzanski and Barbara (Mike) McKenna; in-laws James (Marilyn) Kempf, Teresa (Tom) O’Donnell, William (Denise) Kempf and Michael (Sue) Kempf; and many nieces and nephews.

fredkurzanski

Fred Kurzanski

Michael “Mike” Murphy

Mike was also a big advocate for children and animals. Mike’s big dream if he ever came into money was that he would buy land and open an animal rescue, so that all animals would be able to have a good life.

Michael Murphy was born in Buffalo and lived his whole life in the Valley neighborhood.  He attended Public School #33 and South Park High School. He worked in human resources at many of companies through the years including at Great Lakes Collections.

He always had a strong interest in Politics from a young age and worked on numerous campaigns throughout the years. Back in the early 90’s Mike even ran for City Councilman of the Lovejoy District.  He also was a longtime Fillmore District Democratic Committeeman, knocking on doors and getting signatures on petitions for candidates.

In 2012, Mike helped found The Valley Neighborhood Watch Alliance and served as its President. Mike helped everyone in the neighborhood, with various issues.  He developed relationships with residents, different City of Buffalo Departments, elected officials, the Buffalo Police Department, Erie County District Attorney’s Office, and more in an effort to improve the lives of those who lived in the Valley, Larkinville, and Little Hollywood neighborhoods.  He always helped out whenever needed. For example, when several families were displaced when their homes were lost in a terrible fire, Mike was there to help in any way he could. He collected food, clothing, home goods, and gift cards for those affected. His phone line was available 24/7 to all.  

Mike was also a longtime volunteer for the Valley Community Association, helping out at fundraisers like the Basket Raffle and “Old Neighborhood” St. Patrick’s Day Parade, where he always led up a marching group from the Neighborhood Watch.  He also liked to volunteer at the Wednesday Night Concert Series at Buffalo River Fest Park and at the Buffalo River Festival.

He was also a big advocate for children and animals. Mike’s big dream if he ever came into money was that he would buy land and open an animal rescue, so that all animals would be able to have a good life.  

Mike worked right up until the last week of his life helping people, even though his health had taken a turn for the worse. Mike always knew the right people to call when things needed to be done.  He always followed up on things to make sure that what he started was finished. Mike wore many hats as a trusted neighbor and he was a loyal friend.  

Mike passed away suddenly on January 11, 2020.  He was the son of the late Dorothy “Dolly” Murphy; brother of Tina (William) America and the late Sharon (late Bernard) Szczepanski; loving uncle of Brittany (Gordon Hurlburt) America; and companion of “Sassy” the Jack Russell Terrier. 

Michael “Mike” Murphy

Rita Smith

Rita’s family has been marching in the “Old Neighborhood” Parade since its inception in 1993.  Her daughter Ellen served as a parade organizer and parade marshal for many years and her son Timmy marched with the Buffalo Fire Department Irish Club.

Rita O’Leary Smith was born in June 1930 and passed away unexpectedly in November 2019, living in the same house on Miami Street in the Old First Ward for almost 90 years.

In 1910, Rita’s parents emigrated from the remote southwest corner of County Cork, Ireland.  Her father, Cornelius O’Leary from the townland of Dunlough and her mother, Mary Bohane from the townland of Callaros Eighter.  Her parents were introduced to one another in Buffalo, they married in October 1919 and moved into the Old First Ward purchasing the Miami Street homestead in 1922 where Rita lived her entire life.
Rita was the youngest of four children, including a brother and two sisters.  She attended Mass and Parochial School at St. Brigid’s on Louisiana Street and graduated from Mt. Mercy Academy Class of 1948.  

Rita was married in September 1954 to Jimboy Smith of Kentucky Street, and they settled into the Miami Street home.  Between 1956 and 1969, Rita and Jimboy had seven children, four girls and three boys. Rita was a stay at home mom, while her husband worked two jobs to support the large family.

Over the years, Rita was a supporter of all Valley Community Association events, especially the Wednesday night concerts at Buffalo River Fest Park and the “Old Neighborhood” St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Rita’s family has been marching in the “Old Neighborhood” Parade since its inception in 1993.  Her daughter Ellen served as a parade organizer and parade marshal for many years and her son Timmy marched with the Buffalo Fire Department Irish Club.  Her husband Jimboy marched with the Grain Scoopers Union when the parade first began. The Scoopers only had two marchers and were among only 25 total contingents in the parade.

Since 2003, her entire family, along with her husband’s brother, nieces, nephews, and numerous cousins have represented the “Cleary Clan of 22 Kentucky Street” typically marching with over ninety members of Cleary, Smith, Whalen, Sullivan and extended families.

Rita is survived by her children Patricia (David) Rosolowski, Timothy C. (Mary Reid) Smith, Kathleen (Ed) Cotter, Ellen (Tom) Mann, James P. (Carleen) and Brian (Margo) Smith, and the late Maureen (Dave) Brown as well as by 15 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.  Rita was the sister of the late John (late Shirley) O’Leary, late Mary (late Edward) Wiles and the late Anna O’Leary. 

Rita was very proud of her Irish heritage, its traditions, her family and the Old First Ward – never wanting to leave Miami Street.

Rita Smith

Margaret “Marge” Starzynski

She found good in every person she ever met, no matter what their reputation might have been and enjoyed getting out and about. She delivered the Courier Express and the Buffalo News with her children as they were growing up. She was there for every dance recital, every graduation, and every play and many sporting events for both her children and grandchildren. She did all of this taking public transportation – she was the master of buses.

Margaret “Marge” Starzynski was born Margaret Ann Gerevics to Anthony Joseph Gerevics and Sophie Cecilia Szejnar on November 12th, 1939.  She grew up in the Old First Ward at 417 Fulton Street and has two sisters – Jeannie (John) Hassett and Linda (Joseph) Zabawa.  Margaret attended Saint Bridgids Grammar School and Bishop Quigley High School where she graduated as Valedictorian of her class.

Pat Panek, Vickie Drebot, and Phyllis Starzynski were Marge’s best pals growing up.  They all hung out at Frank’s Tavern on Minton and Smith Street in “Little Hollywood”.  That is where she met Anthony “Tony Starr” Starzynski in 1957. They were married in 1960.  Tony enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan while Marge stayed at home on Exchange Street and took care of their four children – Tony, Tammy, Michael, and Cindy.

Marge worked for the “Aud” for many years with Bobby Strianese, Dennis Ratchuk, Slyvia Mastrocoval, Matty Kwietnewski, Artie Burns, George Gould, and many more.  She eventually started working for Erie County in the Finance Department with Joe Maciejewski. She retired in 2005 but then went back as a contract employee for Joe in 2007.

In 2008, Marge’s husband Tony became ill and rather than place him in a nursing home, she stayed at home with her children and took care of him until he passed away in 2012.  Marge continued working until 2016 and then said “I’m done working” and retired for good.

Marge served on the Board of Directors for the Valley Community Association, volunteered for the “Rally in the Valley” fundraiser carnival, at Valley Bingo, and at Buffalo River Fest Park for various events.  

She found good in every person she ever met, no matter what their reputation might have been and enjoyed getting out and about.  She delivered the Courier Express and the Buffalo News with her children as they were growing up. She was there for every dance recital, every graduation, and every play and many sporting events for both her children and grandchildren. She did all of this taking public transportation – she was the master of buses.  She could tell you what number bus to take to anywhere in Western New York. She also loved sitting in her yard reading and being with her family, especially her grandchildren. She had season tickets to Shea’s Performing Arts Center with her friend Mary Nagel. Marge lived a comfortable life, always making ends meet somehow and she is missed each and every day.

She was known as Mrs. Starr, Margaret, Margie, Margery, Marge, Maggie, Grandma Margie, and Nana.  But most of all she was known as Mom.

Marge passed away on June 5th, 2019 and is survived by her children – Anthony M. (Anne), Tammy L., Michael J. and Cindy Smith; grandchildren – Megan (Danny) Vogl, Brooke Smith and the late Ryan “RAS” Starzynski; and sisters Jeanne (John) Hassett and Linda (Joseph) Zabawa.

Margaret “Marge” Starzynski

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Grand Marshal Patrick Dunbar:

Patrick Dunbar has been chosen as the Grand Marshal of the 27th edition of the “Old Neighborhood” St. Patrick’s Day Parade Sponsored by Labatt USA and will lead the procession through the historic streets of the Valley and Old First Ward neighborhoods on Saturday, March 14th, 2020.

About the Parade:

The 27th annual parade will kick off at 12 Noon from the Valley Community Center and will wind through the streets of the historic Buffalo River Community. Viewing of the parade is available along South Park Avenue (between Hamburg Street and Smith Street), Smith Street (between South Park Avenue and Elk Street), Elk Street (between Smith Street and South Park Avenue), Hamburg Street (between South Park Avenue and South Street), and South Street (between Hamburg Street and Louisiana Street).

The Hooley:

Immediately following the parade will be the traditional grand Irish “Hooley” featuring live music by “Poor Ould Goat” as well as plenty of food and drink. The “Hooley” runs from 1pm-5pm at the Valley Community Center.

The Post Party Parade:

Doors for the event will open at 12pm with Chef Kevin serving corned beef dinners, corned beef sandwiches, and other selections for those who don’t care for corned beef.  Music will be provided by Geno McManus from 2pm-5pm and he will be followed by Brian Overdorf.

A green shuttle bus will be available to take parade goers between the Post Parade Party at the Tewksbury Lodge and the Hooley at the Valley Community Center.

Support the VCA by Donating to the 2020 “Old Neighborhood” St. Patrick’s Day Parade:

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Check Out the 2020 “Old Neighborhood” Parade Route:

To Find Out More about the Valley’s St. Patrick’s Day Festivities: