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Maria Torres, served senior citizens through Hispanics United of Buffalo

Feb. 3, 1931 – Oct. 19, 2017

Maria Torres, who raised six children and served for decades as a leader of Hispanic Senior Services at Hispanics United of Buffalo, died Thursday. She was 86.

In a written tribute, her family and friends called Mrs. Torres dynamic, powerful, strong-willed, encouraging and a model for others in the Puerto Rican community.

Mrs. Torres was born in Buffalo and began caring for the elderly while in a program in which she went from home to home to check in on fellow Puerto Ricans, her family said. She then became a community aide at the original Puerto Rican Chicano Center, forerunner to Hispanics United of Buffalo.

As a devoted Catholic, Mrs. Torres set aside time every day for prayer, and she served in leadership roles at the former Immaculate Conception Church, where she was a choir director and Eucharistic minister. She also participated in the prison ministry and a special Bible study program.

Mrs. Torres' favorite family holiday was Thanksgiving, although she loved to cook at all times of the year, not just for her family but for everyone, her family members said in a written tribute. In 1993, Buffalo News food writer Janice Okun noted that Mrs. Torres was renowned for her cooking. But Mrs. Torres acknowledged she had a hard time, as far as food was concerned, when she first moved from Puerto Rico to the mainland.

"I couldn't find anything to eat I was used to when I moved here from Puerto Rico in 1952," she told the food writer. "I suffered a lot. There wasn't even any coffee. I wanted to fly back."

Instead, she became a pillar of her West Side community.

"She was an all-around good person," said Wilmer Olivencia Jr., who knew her while growing up in the neighborhood and later served as housing director for Hispanics United. He said Mrs. Torres gave her heart and soul to make sure senior citizens had a quality place for recreation, a destination where they could be with others and get out of their homes each day.

Her involvement with Hispanics United and through her church made her a recognizable figure. She became someone people wanted to know, Olivencia said.

"There wasn't an elected official who didn't know who she was," he said.

Mrs. Torres was born Maria Cruz. She and her husband, Victor, had six children, four boys and two girls. She is predeceased by Victor and three of the children, Francisco, Victor and Raphael. She is survived by Maria Torres-Hernandez, Evelyn Torres and Edwin Torres.

Calling hours will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Lombardo Funeral Home, Northtowns Chapel, 885 Niagara Falls Blvd., and from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Holy Cross Church, Maryland and Seventh Streets. A Mass of Christian Burial will immediately follow.

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