May 20, 1936 — Feb. 19, 2019
Claudia Tripi was the daughter of a laborer from an immigrant family. She left high school to work, but under her guidance, all three of her children earned advanced degrees, and one became an Erie County Family Court judge.
Throughout her life, Mrs. Tripi also pursued her own goals, said her daughter, Judge Deanne M. Tripi. She earned her high school GED, took several English classes at Erie Community College and wrote three novels. She was still editing the final one at the time of her death.
"She was an extremely well-spoken, feisty, independent, self-sufficient mom whose entire life was making sure that her children were successful," said Judge Tripi.
Mrs. Tripi died Feb. 19, 2019, in her East Amherst home, under care of Hospice Buffalo. She was 82.
Mrs. Tripi was born in Buffalo on May 20, 1936, the middle child of Salvatore and Maria (Petix) Terranova and sister of Margaret and Dolores. Salvatore Terranova was a laborer who "did anything the union hall would give him," Judge Tripi said, and his wife worked in a defense factory during World War II, then worked for Hershey Chocolate Corp.
Mrs. Tripi attended Public School No. 2 in Buffalo but ended her formal education early to enter the workforce. "She had to go out and earn a living," said Judge Tripi. With her wages, "she got a car, which made my grandparents excited, because nobody else in the neighborhood had a car," she said.
Mrs. Tripi started as a switchboard operator for National Fuel Gas, then worked in an office at Lincoln-Mercury, answering calls and typing, her daughter said.
She was introduced to her future husband, Joseph M. Tripi, by his sister, with whom Mrs. Tripi worked, her daughter said. "My aunt wanted her brother to meet someone," Judge Tripi said.
In April of 1962, she married Mr. Tripi, a U.S. Navy veteran who had a bachelor's degree in business from the University at Buffalo. "She was very proud to marry a college guy," said Judge Tripi.
Mr. Tripi was a self-employed certified public accountant who became a partner with his brother in Park Land Enterprises Inc., then founded Parkhaven Builders in the 1980s.
The Tripis raised their son and two daughters on Parkhaven Drive in the northwest part of Amherst.
Education was emphasized, Judge Tripi said. "She would say, 'You're going to college.' It was never 'If you go ...' It was, 'You are getting an education and a degree.' "
In the past 15 years, Mrs. Tripi wrote three full-length novels, all with strong female main characters who overcame severe adversity. They were "The Mail, the Newspaper and What's for Dinner," "There's a Banana in the Air," and "From Palermo," which she was still revising at the time of her death.
"My mom was a strong, independent woman who made strong, independent heroines," her daughter said.
The books, especially "From Palermo," contain some scenes influenced by Mrs. Tripi's life, but are richly detailed fiction, her daughter said.
Mrs. Tripi was not able to find a publisher for the novels, her daughter said, although, "If you read them, you would think this was a woman who had a master's degree in English."
When Judge Tripi told her parents of her plan to run for the Family Court post, her mother had complete confidence in her success, Judge Tripi said. "The champion came out," said her daughter, who was less sure of her chances, given the competition. "She felt that we could do anything, and always supported us."
Her mother "wore the T-shirts, passed out the palm cards and did her campaigning in her apartment complex," said Judge Tripi, who was elected to a 10-year term on the court that started in 2014.
Mrs. Tripi's other daughter, Claudia Tripi-Sanger, died on April 14, 2012, after a battle with breast cancer, and her husband, Joseph M. Tripi, died on Feb. 4, 2014.
Besides her daughter, Mrs. Tripi is survived by a son, Joseph M. Tripi Jr.; a stepson, Russell J. Ward; six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. A funeral service will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Amherst Chapel of Amigone Funeral Home, 5200 Sheridan Drive at Hopkins Road. Memorials may be made to Hospice Buffalo.