Sept. 28, 1928 – March 22, 2015
Agnes Palazzetti, a pioneering reporter who parlayed a natural toughness and a nose for a news scoop into an award-winning career for The Buffalo News, died Sunday at Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk after a short illness. She was 86.
Crusty, gruff, unable to be intimidated – yet always the first newsroom veteran to help out a rookie reporter – Ms. Palazzetti-Minion (as she was know in private life) proved through sheer determination that she could survive and prosper on what was previously male turf. She was the first woman to cover Buffalo Police Headquarters for The News, competing against male reporters and winning the trust of hard-nosed cops who trusted her as a confidante.
Her reports played a key role in derailing the political career of former State Sen. Lloyd H. Paterson in 1978 after his conviction for stealing public funds while he was Niagara County treasurer. In later years she developed contacts within the Seneca Nation of Indians of which outside reporters could only dream. And she assigned top priority to stories that shined a light on important community institutions like the United Way and Western New York Food Bank.
“Agnes was a fighter for the regular guy on the street,” recalled Edward L. Cuddihy, retired managing editor of The News. “Whether covering politics in Niagara County or shootings from Buffalo Police Headquarters, the self-important and the pretentious were her enemy. She was as irascible with her editors as she was with her news sources, but you couldn’t help loving her passion for getting her story in the paper, and getting it right.”
Born Agnes F. Perone in Niagara Falls, Ms. Palazzetti graduated from Stella Niagara Boarding School and later from Niagara University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She began a long association with the Lily Dale spiritualist community as editor and owner of the Psychic Observer, and later moved to the Bradford Era newspaper, establishing lifelong ties in Northern Pennsylvania and New York’s Southern Tier.
But she was best known for her almost 40 years with The News, racking up awards and citations for investigations and top-notch beat reporting. On a daily basis, she dominated the raucous atmosphere of the newsroom with her unique observations on just about everything.
“She was a memorable character right out of central casting, and I mean that in the best sense of the term,” said News medical reporter Henry L. Davis.
News reporter Susan Schulman recalled how Ms. Palazzetti always referred to her as “child,” including her and a generation of younger reporters in her life.
“She was a tough, old-school, hard-news reporter.” Schulman said. “But she was also nurturing.”
Outside of her life at The News, Ms. Palazzetti was an opera buff who was well known around her Cassadaga home. Built by her father, “The Bungalow” on Dale Drive was famous for the remarkable gardens she tended.
She received many awards from various journalistic organizations throughout her career, but her colleagues saw it as fitting when she received the Food Bank’s Citizen of the Year Award in 2002.
“As a reporter I feel what I was doing was my job and what I do doesn’t need an award,” she said then. “Our reward is helping people. I ... told them, when I retire, you can give me an award, and they really did.”
Ms. Palazzetti was preceded in death by her husbands, Robert F. Reuther, Adorno Palazzetti and William K. Minion.
She is survived by a son, Robert Reuther; a daughter, Fiore Heather Johnson; a brother, Alfred Perone; eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
A private service will be scheduled later.
– Robert J. McCarthy