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Lynn Millane, 90, broke barriers to become Amherst's first female supervisor

Oct. 14, 1928 — May 4, 2019

In 1996, as her groundbreaking political career was ending, Lynn Millane recalled telling an Amherst Republican leader in the early 1980s that she wanted to run for the Town Board.

She told The News that he replied, "We don't have any women on the Town Board," then added, "We don't need any."

"That did it," Mrs. Millane said.

Mrs. Millane not only won that 1981 election to the Amherst Town Board, she served on the board for 14 years. From 1990 to 1996, she was the first female deputy town supervisor, and from May to December 1996, she was the first female town supervisor, completing the term of Supervisor Thomas J. Ahern, who stepped down due to ill health.

"She was able to break some boundaries for women, and she did it in a way that was compassionate and measured," said Maureen Millane, the first of Mrs. Millane's five children. "She always worked across the aisle, too. She said that her constituents were all across the board, and she put them above the party."

Mrs. Millane died May 4 in her longtime Amherst home. She was 90.

She was born Oct. 14, 1928, in Buffalo, the only child of Robert P. and Justine Ross Schermerhorn. Her father was a certified public accountant.

Mrs. Millane earned a bachelor's degree in 1949 and a master's degree in health education in 1951, both from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

At UB, she met her husband-to-be, John Vaughan Millane Jr., known as Bud. They married on Aug. 16, 1952, in St. Joseph's Cathedral in Buffalo.

Even as a young mother, her daughter said, Mrs. Millane was involved in volunteer work, with special interest in Meyer Memorial Hospital (now Erie County Medical Center), where she belonged to and was an officer on the Junior Board from 1958 to 1969. She also held offices in the Women's Committee of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Society.

In 1969, to her surprise, she was named a Regional Homemaker of the Year by Family Circle magazine. "I nominated her for that, without her knowing," said her daughter.

In a Buffalo News interview after the award, Mrs. Millane said that in college, she had planned to become a doctor. "Sometimes I say that after I get everything settled, I'll take up painting," she said. "Every year is going to be my year, but I just don't get around to it."

In 1981, she finally got around to it, making history on the Amherst Town Board.

"After she was elected, she had a second phone put in for constituents' calls," said Maureen Millane. "It was a blue phone, and we were not allowed to use it, or to answer it. She was a great cook and was always in the kitchen, and my image is of her in the kitchen, in a suit and heels, wearing an apron, cooking or baking and talking on the blue phone."

On the board, she worked on many projects that aided senior citizens and libraries. She served as deputy supervisor under both Democratic Supervisor Daniel Ward and Ahern, a Republican, and when he stepped down, was unanimously named supervisor by a board that contained both Democratic and Republican members.

After leaving elected office, Mrs. Millane served on the Aging Services Committee of the New York State Office for Aging from 1996 to 2006; she was chair for all but the first year.

From 1999 to 2009, Mrs. Millane served two terms as a commissioner on the State Ethics Commission.

Among her honors, Mrs. Millane was named a New York State Senate "Woman of Distinction" in 2003; the Zonta Club of Amherst's Woman of the Year in 1992; and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's Woman of the Year in 1982. She received the Susan B. Anthony Award in 1991 from the Interclub Council of Western New York.

Her daughter said that Mrs. Millane cherished a letter from former First Lady Barbara Bush, in which Mrs. Bush praised her "enlightened leadership in behalf of public service and for carrying on the great American tradition of reaching out and caring for others."

She served on the Board of Trustees of Daemen College from 1998 to 2007, served on the board of directors and held several offices with the Amherst Symphony from 1981 to 2007, and was a member of the Amherst Senior Citizens Foundation Board from 1998 to 2002.

Her husband died in 1998.

Besides Dr. Maureen Millane, Mrs. Millane is survived by two other daughters, Michele Millane Campanella and Kathleen Millane McConnell; two sons, John V. Millane III and Mark R. Millane; 14 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and many cousins, nieces and nephews.

A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at 8:45 a.m. June 29 in St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 200 St. Gregory Court, Amherst.

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