Grand Islandís Grand Lady to take Rightful Place in Town

Marion E. Klingel

   February 8, 2007 . . . Marion Klingel would have turned 100 on Feb. 16. The lionís share of her 94 years she spent making a difference on Grand Island. No one had a more dedicated commitment to place than Marion had for Grand Island. Her initials, MEK, on historical articles about Grand Island were familiar in every Grand Island publication from the PennySaver and Island Dispatch to the Grand Island Record. And she was Grand Islandís first stringer to the Buffalo News.
   Now the place that was her life will honor MEK with her own permanent place on Grand Island. The Town Board, Monday, proclaimed the Town Common would be forever named the Marion E. Klingel Town Common. A new sign will be erected this summer and her photograph will grace the Town Hall lobby. This recognition and the upcoming ceremony, so rightfully hers, is long deserved for no individual has championed a town more than Marion. It is, in a sense, a lifetime achievement award, given posthumously, for her service to Grand Island that spanned all phases of life here.
   There are so many Island positions and institutions associated with her name - town historian for 36 years, the first fire dispatcher, a charter member of the GI Historical Society, Republican Womenís Club, a longtime member of Zonta and the Golden Age Club. She was a friend and advocate of the schools, the business community, most service clubs, and especially town government. If she had a fault as a journalist it was her reluctance to write about things that might put an unfavorable glare on the town, because all she wanted was the best for her place. Privately she would gripe, but publicly she wanted the rest of Western New York to look upon Grand Island in the most favorable light.
   When I became the editor of the Island Dispatch in 1986, Marion became my mentor and taught me about Grand Island from its beginnings as a resort community to the present. She was so proud to share with me every aspect of her town and generously devoted her time. We spent many afternoons driving around the Island as she pointed out significant historical places and points of interest. I became an Islander at heart through her eyes.
   Marion was recognized numerous times during her lifetime Ė cited by the Chamber of Commerce more than any other single individual or group, cited by the school district (which also obtained a high school diploma for her at age 86 based on her body of work), the town, the county and even the state. She held honorary memberships in the Grand Island Teachers Association and the West River Homeowners Association and was named Erie County Senior Citizen of the Year in 1991. Though she always downplayed her many accomplishments and recognitions, the honors she received were well deserved. I am sure this naming ceremony would have meant the most to her and would surely have made her smile with pride on the Island she so loved.
   I salute the town for its recognition of Grand Islandís Grand Lady, a true pioneer who played a significant role in the development and chronicling of this townís development. The Town Board, by dedicating a permanent place in the town center in her name, is giving Marion her rightful place in the townís history.
By Joelle Logue