Remembering Kelly Maurer

by / Oct. 19, 2016 12am EST

On Saturday, October 15, Kelly Maurer died of complications from pneumonia, surrounded by family. Maurer was a pillar of Buffalo’s progressive community, smart and committed, fun-loving, honest in her friendships and her appraisals. The fruits of her labor surround us, as illustrated below in the remembrances we solicited from friends and colleagues:

I first met Kelly Maurer 10 years ago when I started an account at the Buffalo Cooperative Federal Credit Union and I surely didn’t know at that point how much she would change my life. Every time I went to the credit union she always talked to me about world events, social change, and why community is important. Over time she and the other credit union staff became my family that was always there to listen to my woes or crack some jokes. Kelly was always willing to impart knowledge and wisdom when I needed it, as I so often did. Through time I became enamored with the co-op movement and the possibilities that it entailed for changing our community to be more inclusive, caring, and respectful. I didn’t have many positive role models growing up and I would often find myself lost and unsure of what I should do with my life. That all changed when Kelly asked me to get some coffee and talk about the world and how we can change it. Soon she became my mentor and one of the most positive forces in my life.

Through the years I began to learn how much Kelly was involved in the community, whether it was being on the board of directors of Buffalo First!, Fillmore Forward, Buffalo Cooperative Federal Credit Union, Farmer Pirates, and countless others or just being an avid supporter of anything positive happening for social or environmental justice and the arts. It’s hard to think of a group that wasn’t touched by Kelly’s kind and thoughtful soul. Kelly’s selfless and relentless volunteerism has inspired me to go above and beyond in my own life while giving me the inspiration and empowerment to push past normal boundaries of social and environmental activism. Most people speak about the problems that are ever present in society but Kelly was the one person in my life that talked about solutions and actually was doing something about it. 

I am forever indebted to and grateful for having Kelly in my life and I know there are countless others that feel the same way. Buffalo shines brighter because of Kelly and will continue to shine for many generations to come because of her. I wish you peace wherever you are, and thanks for believing in me, Kelly…

Michael Zak, Buffalo GroOperative

Kelly Maurer was an incredible force in our progressive community, though so many people may not know it. Her guidance and pragmatism helped those who wanted to live their lives differently find a way to make it happen. Kelly was quick with both compliments and concerns, and always focused on the long view.  I’ve met few people more intentional in how they want to live their lives and share their resources—both financial and emotional. 

Heather Gring, past employee of Buffalo First!

Being poor without any debt experience, no bank would loan my wife and me the $25,000 to start Five Points Bakery, so we asked Kelly, who had gotten us the loan for our first home through the Buffalo Cooperative Credit Union. She told us the credit union wasn’t able to take on the commercial loan but then offered to loan it to us personally. She loved the idea of building community and saw the potential in the bakery, the West Side, and us personally when no one else did. She even gave us $35,000 instead of the $25,000 we asked for, in case there were unforeseen expenses (which there were). Three years later, when we wanted to buy the property across the street to expand, Kelly and her husband Eric, who were working on forming Buffalo Commonwealth, a business dedicated to funding projects just like ours, piloted their new business with a $75,000 loan to us to buy the property, which was appraised at $36,000; she saw the potential. Every day I wake up and walk down to open Five Points Bakery, living a life that was just a dream 10 years ago, and I owe it all to her. Thank you, Kelly, I will never forget what you did for us and our community.

Kevin Gardner, Five Points Bakery

I’ve heard from many people in Buffalo today about the impact that Kelly Maurer had on their lives, and on our city. She had a brilliant mind. She was practical and visionary at the same time. She educated countless people on local economic systems. She invested in social enterprises, cooperatives, and other non-extractive models alternative to capitalism that would generate community control and build wealth in neighborhoods and marginalized communities. 

What I always greatly admired about Kelly was the fact that she never did it for any other reason than that she thought it was the right thing to do. Years later, I am still grateful for the many lessons she taught me about life and the movement as a young executive director (of Buffalo First!). The many conversations—both abstract and administrative—that we had over pints with our friend and comrade Andrew Delmonte. The biggest and most sage advice she ever gave me, and it’s what I’ll hold tightly to, is when she looked at me, in the most Buffalo way possible, and said, “Don’t be a martyr for the cause. You’re too young for that.” 

She’s an unsung heroine in Buffalo’s progressive community. She is already missed.

Harper SE Bishop, Open Buffalo

Through the years, the co-op community in Buffalo has cultivated and benefited from the leadership of so many people. But Kelly Maurer stands out as one of the most dedicated and resilient. Kelly did the dirty work, often stepping in when times were toughest to keep different co-ops afloat and moving forward. It’s fair to say that Lexington, Buffalo First!, and the Buffalo Co-op Credit Union may not be here today without the passion and efforts of Kelly Maurer. We have lost a great one. And like all community efforts, the baton has been passed, and it’s now up to us to continue the good work that she devoted her life to. 

Tim Bartlett, Lexington Cooperative Market

I worked with Kelly at Buffalo First! Kelly was an inspiration, a mentor, a leader, a diplomat, an organizer, a negotiator, and a community pillar.  She was an advocate for justice, a believer in the missions of the organizations she volunteered with, and had the desire and the plans to make her community and the world a better place.

She placed her family and friends first!

Personally, Kelly was my friend, my confidante, and my breakfast buddy.

Her life changed and influenced my life in so many ways.  I will be eternally grateful to have met this beautiful, selfless, humorous woman that I had the honor of calling my friend!

Karen J. Lewis

Kelly Maurer did not like being in the spotlight. If she knew that we were honoring her, she would be embarrassed and ask us to turn the spotlight on what it was that she did. Well, I value her more for who she was than what she did. Yes, she was a big advocate for social justice and she didn’t just talk about it, she acted on those beliefs. Kelly’s efforts on behalf of our community epitomized the slogan “City of Good Neighbors”; she was a great neighbor. Her efforts on the behalf of the people of Buffalo are many, but that is not what I will miss.

I will miss her ever ready smile and infectious laugh. Kelly was a steady and calm presence in the midst of storms. She was quite the pragmatist yet she loved to spend hours dreaming of a new reality where people came before corporations, where caring for others came before self-centered interest. While Kelley was not overly religious, she epitomized what it is to love your neighbor as yourself. What we will miss is her connectedness to our community and we are all the less for her absence. 

Rev. Deacon Stephen Lane, formerly of Trinity Episcopal Church

Kelly was my friend for nearly 30 years. The day I met her at the back of a truck outside the Lexington Co-op at the corner of Lexington and Ashland, I knew I would hire her as the store manager. We worked at the Co-op together in the mid ’80s to the early ’90s. I can easily say that without Kelly the Co-op may not have survived those days. Kelly cared deeply for the world and the people in it and she generously gave her time and energy to organizations that would have an impact on local lives. She brought her big heart to everything she did; her friends, her family, and the people she connected with every day.  I am honored and fortunate to have called her my friend. 

Jenny Bruce, Lexington Cooperative Market

Kelly Maurer was a great combination of dreamer and pragmatist. She believed in building an alternative to capitalism through grassroots efforts, project by project. Kelly had a knack for attending to the overlooked details that make organizations successful and she offered constant, level headed advice. She was incredible at diffusing tension within a group and keeping people working together. As a member of Farmer Pirates remarked, Kelly kept us in line. This was not an easy task as many of the people devoted to alternative projects tend to be misfits one way or another. She did all this while being a warm, kind person always eager to crack jokes and keep us in merry spirits. Her departure has left a void that will take many people to fill.

Mike Raleigh, Farmer Pirates member

As a friend mentioned to me today upon hearing news of Kelly’s passing, “I thought about it, and I’m quite confident I’ve never had a negative interaction with Kelly in all the years I’ve known her.” In fact, Kelly’s kindness was unconditional and unwavering, consistent and loving.  Increasingly, I find it so rare that people sit and just listen, when others need an ear, a shoulder, or a crutch of support. Kelly provided this to me, and in recent days I’ve heard stories of all the others that have been influenced by her. I’m convinced so much of her wisdom was collected from these opportunities to listen, love, and give back to each person she encountered in our community. This quality will stand in my mind as Kelly’s gift to Buffalo.

Michael Gainer, ReUseAction

Kelly Maurer was unconditional; Kelly was genuine; Kelly was selfless. Working with her professionally and knowing her personally was a life-altering pleasure. She would share in your joy wholeheartedly and bear the burden of your devastation. To take you by the hand and guide you through the darkness takes a special person. Kelly was that person. Stepping into her home felt as comfortable as stepping into your own, and her door was always open. Her passing is a loss to those of us who knew her, who could recognize her voice and her unmistakable laugh instantly, but to her community, the seeds that she planted through her efforts will blossom for many years to come. It is only fitting that she went out with the Super Moon, given how she was a beacon for so many. Like the moon, her surface wasn’t flawless, but she still reflected all of the light given to her. Thank you, Kelly.

In peace, in sorrow, in gratitude,

Rahdne Zola (Rodney Bogardus)

I only knew Kelly for a little while, but her vision for the way Buffalo can be was inspiring to me. She was involved with the Buffalo Co-operative Credit Union for more than 20 years, and her contribution is a big part of why we’re still here. Everything she did was with an eye toward helping the Buffalo community. She saw how the credit union could do more to help Buffalo’s underbanked population, and helped us to enact that vision. I am a better person for having known Kelly Maurer. She will be greatly missed.

Michael Anuszkiewicz, Buffalo Cooperative FCU

In August, Kelly Maurer spoke to a room of 15 mostly 20-somethings in the dining room of my housing cooperative on a Saturday afternoon, surrounded by dirty dishes, gallons of coffee, and other signs of people trying very hard in unison. She was there to talk about credit unions, the importance of democratic finance, and ways that we can all participate, today, in community control of wealth in Buffalo. Kelly would scoff at all that jargon—”It’s simple,” she would say. “When the people that need money to do stuff have control of the money, they can do the stuff!”

I worked alongside Kelly beginning in 2010, first coming together around the shared mission of Buffalo First!—a “buy local” campaign with a hidden radical agenda, as Kelly often described it, to return economic power to the community. I was immediately struck by her unique mix of passion and irreverence, and it wasn’t until several years later that I would also be struck by her wisdom.

But let’s talk about that irreverence for a minute. Kelly never shied away from calling people out on their bullshit. This extended to friends, colleagues, those businesses we advocated for, those with deep pockets nationally who guided the new economy movement. She was extremely unimpressed with any pretense of power, unless it was rooted in the equity and participation of the people. Kelly was the first person to teach me that irreverence was a virtue. Hard conversations are how we grow. Individually and collectively, we needed them then, and we still need them now.

She also taught me that passion can run deep. From her early days living and working in housing cooperatives; to the years she spent using her hands and her resources to build Buffalo’s community-owned institutions including the Lexington Cooperative Market, the Buffalo Cooperative Federal Credit Union, Farmer Pirates, and scores of locally owned businesses; to the days she would show up in the rain to participate in direct action for Buffalo First!, or speak to a room of people about divesting from corporate banks, there was never a question that this work wasn’t exactly the work she should be doing. The question was only what more could be done.

My lens into Kelly’s life is a limited one, and that is a testament to the incredible number of people whose lives were affected by her work—or put another way, it’s a testament to the fact that her life’s work was other people.

Through this tireless conviction came a kindness that was rare in both its intensity and its power. Kelly had the vision to see people for who they were—for all their imperfections and humanity—and the ability to nurture them to explore their strengths. Some might call that the skill of a leader. I think Kelly would call it “common sense.” 

On that Saturday afternoon in August, before she brought some financial literacy and financial empowerment to members of Nickel City Housing Cooperative, Kelly beamed at each one of us. She told the group of tired co-opers how inspired she was by our level of organization, how well we had been facilitating our all-member meeting, and how hopeful she was for what we would do next, together.

But it was an intensely intellectual conversation (of which there were so many) on a different day, several years back, that keeps echoing in my head today. At a time when I was first exploring more radical ways to love and be loved, Kelly was arresting in her acceptance and support, when many others, out of fear or confusion, were not. “Love,” she reminded me then, “is something that is best given regardless of whether it’s ever received in return.” And that, I think, is exactly what Kelly would remind us today. That it’s about what you put out into the world, not what you get back from it.

Andrew DelMonte

I have known the Hahn-Maurer family my entire adult life. First meeting Eric volunteering at the Lexington coop on cheese cutting night, and later Kelly, when I started working at the Buffalo Cooperative Credit Union 12 years ago.

Kelly was the most giving, selfless human I have encountered in my life. I quickly realized she would do anything in her power to help anyone who walked into the credit union accomplish their goals. Even understanding, when 6 months later, I decided I had to leave Buffalo to go explore other places. And my job was there when I returned. Each time. 

She was the heart of countless organizations in Buffalo, and I’m sure I can only name a handful that she was involved in, many of which would not exist if it hadn’t been for her tireless efforts. 

She valued local, grassroots businesses and organizations and with the creation of Buffalo Common Wealth, her and Eric saw that their friends’ passions and dreams had funding to move forward. 

She was always ready to lend a helping hand with her infinite knowledge, and keeping us all on track and our heads out of the clouds. Her grounding force, without a doubt is what kept our community moving forward, in a real, tangible way.

I cannot express the extent of the loss of such a person. We can only continue to appreciate all of the amazing things she has done in her life that will continue on.

Thank you, Kelly. You will never be forgotten.

Carrie Nader

Kelly was always in the trenches working hard and playing hard to make Buffalo a more just and enjoyable community. From the days of the Co-op on Lexington through the Buffalo Co-op Credit Union to the urban farm, she always seemed to know where to put her energy and her advocacy in an attempt build a more sane local society, from the ground up. It was always a treat to run into her in various places and take off on a great conversation, exploring the depths of what it would take to make a better world. She will be sorely missed by so many. So, so sad…

Harry DeLano

Kelly was a strong, quiet, gentle helper in the heart of our cooperative communities. She was generous with her smile and her time, always present.

Trudy Stern

I am shocked to hear of the recent death of Kelly Maurer. Kelly was one of those rare individuals that one encounters (on very rare occasion) in life, that is willing to subsume their personal agenda for the benefit of the larger community. Her tremendous talents and personality were a gift to us all that she freely shared. She was intellectually brilliant and spiritually tough. She nurtured the Buffalo Cooperative Credit Union with a stewardship that was fair, compassionate, honest and visionary. I admired her greatly. She was a genuine friend. The incredible sadness that I feel in her premature demise is tempered by the gift of having known her—Kelly was a really really special person and her tremendous body of work survives her. That sense of uncompromising integrity and genuine care for other people that Kelly seemed to effortlessly shower on those around her made us all better people—words cannot express our loss. 

Terry Robinson

I had the luck to serve with Kelly on the Buffalo First! board for several years. Here’s my take, it keeps playing in my head, and I’m not sure it’s hit me yet but she definitely influenced everyone she came across without trying to. You look at the resurgence in Buffalo and she has influence in much of it. 

“Screw it, we’re all gonna go some time. When it’s time, it’s time. I’m ok with that.” —Kelly

“People before profit.” —Kelly

I’ve heard this and something similar from Kelly several times over drinks and snacks after many Buffalo First! meetings years back. 

I can’t believe this is the one thing that stands out more than everything else. It sounds insensitive but it resonates with me. As we search for answers, through the pain and loss, there is a reason.

Kelly was people before profit 100 percent of the time. Let this be her legacy.

Todd Salansky

Ten years ago, I moved to Buffalo, NY. Very soon after, I was caught by Kelly Maurer’s movement. She was an innovator, radical, social justice supporter, mentor, instructor, leader, fighter for economic freedom in capitalist society, great mom, friend and so much more to go on. I am a better person for knowing her and being mentored by her. I miss Kelly. There is no one who could replace her. I spent many years on the Board of the Buffalo Cooperative Federal Credit Union with her. Every board meeting, I learned so much from her. She was involved with SO MANY ventures that ALWAYS were for the improvement and uplifting Buffalo. I only knew a fraction of what she was involved in, but there were many, many people and organizations that were getting her gifts of monetary support and knowledge drops. I told her just recently, how much I respected her and all work with cooperative movements and the like. I am so glad I did. She really was amazing. If you live in Buffalo, you might not even know it, but she helped make our city better for you. We lost a really awesome person. I am at loss. What I have tried to describe as what contribution Kelly brought to our community is a only a thin veneer of her real accomplishments. There are SO MANY. I truly respected Kelly as human being and as an ally. We briefly acknowledged one time that the Christmas film “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a major motivation in becoming involved in local economies. The Buffalo Cooperative Federal Credit Union is/was her passion. Please, in support of her, if you can borrow from the Buffalo Cooperative Federal Credit Union. She/it can really use your help to fulfill her dream. As my good friend and also a mentor Kevin Hayes said, “We really need to step up our game”. Kelly. You are missed but not forgotten. We will endeavor to pursue your endeavors…

With love.

Peter Riphahn