Feb. 11, 1927 – Aug. 11, 2017
When Marion LaVigne graduated from high school in 1944, her daughter Michele says, “the choices for women were to be a teacher or a nurse.”
A junior high school and middle school mathematics teacher for 50 years, she firmly believed that every student could master math and inspired some of them to become math teachers.
She died last Friday in Brothers of Mercy Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Clarence, after a short illness. She was 90.
Born in Buffalo, the former Marion Bernadine Mandley grew up in the city’s North Park and Allentown neighborhoods and attended Holy Angels Elementary School and Holy Angels High School.
In high school, she accepted a date with John A. “Jack” LaVigne, who also lived in Allentown, to attend a CYO dance at Immaculate Conception Parish and continued seeing him when he went off to Notre Dame University and she enrolled at Buffalo State Teachers College.
At Buffalo State, she was a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority and graduated first in her class, receiving the Jesse Ketchum Medal for excellence in scholarship. Certified to teach math in kindergarten through eighth grade, she taught sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students in several Buffalo schools, including School 54 and Woodlawn Junior High School.
Jack had graduated from Notre Dame and started at the University of Buffalo Law School, but left so that they could get married in 1950. During their first years together, he served in the Army Reserve and regularly went to work with a suitcase in case he was suddenly called to active duty during the Korean War.
They moved to Kenmore and, as her family grew to five children, she became a substitute teacher in Buffalo.
After they moved to Williamsville in 1965, Mrs. LaVigne began substitute teaching there and soon returned to the classroom full-time. She taught at Mill Middle School and Casey Middle School, where she was part of the original faculty in the early 1970s.
She earned a master’s degree in education from UB in 1972 and a master’s degree in business administration there in 1981.
After she retired in 2000, she volunteered at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital and frequently ushered at the UB Center for the Arts. She was an avid bridge player and connoisseur of the arts.
She also tutored at-risk girls studying for their GED certificates and college placement tests.
“In retirement, she kept teaching,” her daughter says. “She went downtown to do it. Some of her students were recently released from prison.”
She was equally intrepid as a traveler, visiting every continent except Antarctica. She favored youth hostels. She made her first visit to China shortly after it opened to tourists in the 1970s. In the former Soviet Union, her daughter says, she was attacked by gypsies. On a trip to Morocco, she rode a camel. At the age of 80, she and her close friend Helen Bowen traveled unaccompanied to Tibet.
“She hitchhiked everywhere and she slept anywhere,” her daughter says. “She’d sleep in the woods.”
Her husband, an auto salesman and former owner of Village Lincoln-Mercury in Amherst, died in 1999.
Survivors include three daughters, Michele, a University of Wisconsin Law School professor; Jackie Wright, an Ayurvedic healer; and Marnie, chief executive officer of Launch NY; two sons, Jay, an attorney, and Neil, a manufacturer’s representative; 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Services will be private.