Jan. 14, 1924 – Feb. 17, 2013
Norma Kassirer, a Buffalo author, poet and artist who influenced generations of local writers and artists, died unexpectedly Sunday in Buffalo General Medical Center after going to the movies with friends. She was 89.
A Buffalo native, the former Norma Kelly grew up in Hamburg. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in social work from Case Western Reserve University. She went on to do casework for Buffalo Family Service and, after the birth of her two daughters, began writing.
She was best known for her two novels for children, “Magic Elizabeth” in 1966 and “The Doll Snatchers” in 1969.
Mrs. Kassirer wrote “Magic Elizabeth,” intended for children ages 8 to 12, after reading family letters that dated from the 1700s. Called a modern classic, it is included in Eden Ross Lipson’s New York Times “Parents’ Guide to Best Books for Children.” It has been reprinted several times and is currently appearing in newspapers throughout the world through Breakfast Serials serialized stories.
Her other books include “The Hidden Wife,” a collection of stories with artwork by Willyum Rowe published in 1991; the story cycle “Milly,” published in 2008; and her novella “Katzenjammered,” published in 2010.
Her short fiction and poetry were published in various literary magazines and collections. This year she was selected by the University at Buffalo’s esteemed Poetry Collection as a featured writer for the forthcoming “Three Poems” series.
Mrs. Kassirer came from a long line of writers. Her father wrote articles about his experience in World War I. Her brother David was a prize-winning poet. A great-great aunt wrote poetry for Harper’s Magazine in the 1800s. And a great-great-great uncle, C.F. Briggs, founded a literary journal in New York City, partnered with Edgar Allen Poe and, under the pseudonym Harry Franco, produced a number of best-selling seafaring novels.
Mrs. Kassirer helped run a children’s musical theater many years ago at the Buffalo Museum of Science, writing and directing plays. She also worked as a writer and editor for publications of Sisters Hospital and reviewed books for The Buffalo News.
She also was an artist. Recently, her paintings were exhibited at Betty’s on Virginia Street. She is known for her stunning and original handmade artist’s books, one of which is owned by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Her paintings and books were exhibited at Western New York Book Arts in conjunction with the release of “Katzenjammered.”
She often painted at the MollyOlga studio, and taught classes there and in the Poets in the Schools program.
She was long involved with Hallwalls from its inception. She painted murals on the ceiling of the gallery’s former space on Essex Street.
Her husband, Earle, died in 2002.
Survivors include a daughter, Susan.
A memorial gathering will take place later.