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Despite defeat, 'Purple Lady' of Falls politics eager to brighten city life

Cristina Ventry became the "Purple Lady" of the election season and found energy and healing in the title.

Ventry, 67, takes pride in having run an unconventional campaign for "Council gal."

The former actress and marketing consultant built a campaign on $450, heart-to-heart conversations with voters and a personal comparison she made during a televised debate to being a "soup chicken" that is good for the city's soul.

"I had the audacity of calling myself a soup chicken," Ventry said. "As far as the citizens are concerned, they were so responsive to me. They told me their problems, and those who were angry with me or angry with the problems, we were able to talk it out."

Ventry, a self-described dyed-in-the-wool Republican, caught the attention of those she met, if not enough votes, to propel her to a seat on the Democratic-dominated City Council.

Despite a loss in her first run for public office, Ventry has vowed to continue working for the city.

"She is a very intelligent person, and she's kind," said Council Chairman Robert Anderson Jr., who ran against Ventry in a four-way race for two Council seats. "I hope we can find someplace to utilize her skills and talent within the next four years in government."

Her purple outfits helped her stand out in more than a few voters' minds.

Ventry always dresses in purple, black or white -- colors in which she feels most "comfortable." She wears her hair piled on the top of her head and keeps her long nails painted purple. A Catholic, Ventry laughed off stories she overheard during the campaign that her "mode of transportation is the broom."

Ventry learned years ago to live life with a bit of laughter after suffering a stroke in 1972 while pursuing an acting career in Manhattan. She was 32 at the time.

"I never had high blood pressure. I was fine, and in five minutes, I was totally paralyzed as a vegetable," Ventry said. "To this day, they don't understand why I was completely paralyzed."

Her mother draped her hospital room with purple curtains and purple blankets -- a color Ventry believes is a "healing, spiritual color."

It took Ventry months to regain movement. She still walks with a slight limp and found that a challenge in campaigning at houses where porches had no railings. She found herself crawling up stairs at times to reach the doors of voters.

"One of the secrets of life is to take all the positive and throw out the negative," Ventry said. "Yes, I'm sad that I didn't win, of course. And I'm sad that we don't have a Republican element, . . . but I had a beautiful experience. The City of Niagara Falls, the people are just glorious."

After years of living in New York City, she returned to Niagara Falls in the mid-199Os to care for her mother and father, a longtime city operating engineer.

"I'm just a firm believer [that] because of the intensity of my stroke, I feel it is essential that I must give back to the world," Ventry said. "I know that I'm one of those people who is very tenacious, and when I believe I'm going to do something, I will do it."

Steven D. Fournier, who won the most votes in the Council race, praised her will to stay involved.

"She's a very nice woman, and I'm glad that she's going to keep doing things in the community," Fournier said. "That's what we need."


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