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Madeline G. LaPenna, 82, owned insurance agency more than 50 years

Jan. 28, 1937 – March 2, 2019

When Madeline G. LaPenna entered the male-dominated workforce of the 1950s, her dream was simple: to someday own a Cadillac.

But Ms. LaPenna did one better.

She started her own business, LaPenna Insurance Agency, where for more than 50 years she provided home, rental, auto and life insurance to her clients.

“She was a very strong woman, very smart, and this was back in the day when women didn’t have their own business like that,” said her sister, Lucille Dever. “She was a pioneer.”

Ms. LaPenna died Saturday at Hospice Buffalo, Cheektowaga. She was 82.

Born in Buffalo, the daughter of Rose and Joseph LaPenna, she grew up on Victoria Avenue, off Fillmore Avenue, graduating from Kensington High School in 1954.

Unable to attend college, Ms. LaPenna went to work and eventually landed a job as an insurance broker for an agency downtown. It wasn’t long before she decided to start her own business. In 1968, she opened LaPenna Insurance Agency.

More than just her place of employment, her offices on Harlem Road in Cheektowaga would be a frequent gathering spot for friends and family. Generations of cousins, nieces and nephews frequently stopped by to talk to “Aunt Mal” and share coffee or pizza or Chinese food. She especially enjoyed the kids in the family, and spent many of her days attending their dance recitals and ball games and Christmas pageants.

Ms. LaPenna was an avid bowler. She founded the Tournament Bowlers Association, served as an officer in the Women’s International Bowling Congress and was creator and producer of Buffalo TV Bowling.

A devout Catholic, Ms. LaPenna attended St. Leo the Great Church, where she served as a eucharistic minister.

She even got that Cadillac she always wanted.

In fact, Ms. LaPenna earned herself five Cadillacs during her lifetime, as well as a few Audis, Saabs and the occasional Lexus.

“She loved cars,” said Dever.

In addition to her sister, Ms. LaPenna is survived by a brother, Thomas.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 5, in St. Leo the Great Church, 885 Sweet Home Road, Amherst.

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