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RECOGNITION AND SMILES FOR A LINCHPIN OF THE RED CROSS

At the American Red Cross, Greater Buffalo chapter, Margaret C. Loos is known as a "living library."

Not only was she an employee for 37 years, a volunteer since she retired in 1972 and an attendee at the past 64 annual board meetings, she's the one who recalls happenings, names and dates that elude others.

So it seemed only fitting that the magnificent library with its walnut-paneled walls in the Delaware Avenue headquarters building should be dedicated to her. In a ceremony earlier this month, in front of dozens of admirers and friends, Mary Dee Martoche, board chair, unveiled the crystal plaque that will so mark the room.

As guests greeted the 87-year-old lady with the sparkling eyes and sharp wit, each expressed a similar sentiment: "How is one of my favorite people?"

"Margaret is one of those people who enters your life and becomes a dear friend," said Neil Melbrod of the Red Cross. "She's the best."

It was 1935 when Miss Loos started with the agency, almost on a whim. She heard about the job opening from a friend during a hobby show at the old Elmwood Music Hall.

At the time, she was 22 and recently graduated from the University of Buffalo's School of Management, but wasn't actively seeking employment.

"I was having too much fun," she said. "It was a social time and we had a nice summer place."

She suggested to then-executive secretary Florence Noye that she start as a volunteer and they would see how things worked out. Ms. Noye, however, talked her into becoming an employee and she became a "lifer," as one colleague termed her.

It wasn't long before she was caught up in the spirit of helping others, and she thinks the Red Cross is the best way to do it. Miss Loos -- who bought a new car last year and still drives to the headquarters from her home in Amherst -- currently serves as a Clement Trustee, whose goal is to safeguard the historic building.

"It's the only organization that you can see in the news almost every day," said Miss Loos. "It affects people locally, nationally and internationally. In wartime, in peacetime."

In 1941 the agency was "bursting at the seams" in its building at Main and Swan streets. That's when Carolyn Tripp Clement donated the impressive mansion -- rivaled only by the Washington, D.C., national headquarters -- with Miss Loos enthusiastically organizing the move. Once in, her office space was right in the library.

Her first job was as director of Roll Call, the agency's fund-raising arm, but now it would be difficult to find a service that doesn't have her stamp on it.

During World War II, she helped develop and supervise the Motor Corps, dietitian aides, canteen service, Junior Red Cross and Service to Military Families. And she was on the original committee that collected blood for military use.

Demands became even more urgent as the war went on.

"We never put in a 9-to-5 day," she said.

Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers aided the war effort by knitting vests, helmets and rifle mitts as well as producing sterile surgical dressings.

The agency was charged by Congress with being the liaison between enlisted personnel and their families. "We are continuing that now," she added, proudly. "We still have our files and we are still working with families."

Agency personnel also played a role during one of Buffalo's worst tragedies, the 1954 Cleveland Hill School fire, in which 10 children died and 18 were critically injured. While young bodies were being taken to the morgue, staff and volunteers tried to console the parents.

"Then, when it was time for parents to leave the morgue, the motor corps took them home," Miss Loos recalls.

It's the agency's response in disasters, as well as blood donations, HIV and AIDS education, the classes in CPR and lifesaving, that energized her throughout the years, she said, along with the people she has met and worked with.

Nancy M. Blaschak, the chapter's executive director, turned the focus back to Miss Loos in her remarks: "Volunteers come and go and staff comes and goes, but Margaret is always with us. If I need a pep talk, I go to her."

She presented Miss Loos with a framed message attributed to Albert Schweitzer: "Red Cross is a light in the darkness. It is our duty to see that it doesn't go out."

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