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Irene Liguori, News reporter, Mark Twain devotee Nov. 12, 1956 - Feb. 22, 2009

Irene Jennings Liguori was an award-winning journalist, a lover of Mark Twain and a Southerner who often said she wouldn't live anywhere but Buffalo.

Ms. Liguori died Sunday in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after a battle with cancer. She was 52.

A reporter at The Buffalo News for more than 15 years, Ms. Liguori was viewed by her fellow journalists as more than just a colleague. She was family.

"Irene was a talented and versatile journalist who brought a literary sensibility, sincere compassion and a whimsical sense of humor to her work and to her many friendships," said News Editor Margaret M. Sullivan. "Her cheerful, gracious presence will be deeply missed in our newsroom and by everyone who was lucky enough to know her."

Ms. Liguori, who never lost her genteel manner or charming Georgia accent, arrived here in the early 1980s, fresh from graduate school at Northwestern University. She worked as a reporter at the Buffalo Courier-Express before joining The News a few years later.

As a reporter, she covered a wide range of beats, from higher education to town government to a brief stint as the paper's society editor. Her assignments included preparations for the 1993 World University Games, a job that took her to Sheffield, England, site of the 1991 Games.

A few years later, Ms. Liguori left The News for a public relations job at Buffalo State. She later worked as a spokeswoman for the World University Games here.

It was at the Courier-Express where Ms. Liguori acquired her deep affection for Twain and his ties to Buffalo. Twain served as editor of the Buffalo Express from 1869 to 1871.

Years later, Ms. Liguori would turn her love of Twain into a new but passionate venture, creation of a Mark Twain Museum in Buffalo.

"Our museum will not be a tourist attraction but a point of civic pride," she said in 2000. "I see the Twain story as part of every Buffalonian's birthright."

The effort ran into fundraising obstacles a few years later, but not before Ms. Liguori had left an enduring legacy of Twain's time in Buffalo.

"She was really a dynamic force," said William Loos, retired curator of the Rare Book collection at the Buffalo & Erie County Library. "She often talked about how she and Twain were both newspaper people and both Southerners."

Her survivors include a daughter, Julia, and a sister, Martha Dover.

A memorial service will be at 4 p.m. Thursday in Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave.


-- Phil Fairbanks

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