Oct. 11, 1934 – Sept. 27, 2022
Lupe Breen wanted to go back to work. A single mother of twin daughters, she followed up on a tip from her aunt in 1967 and landed what was then called an assignment. She would be a receptionist at Dunhill of Buffalo, a small job placement agency, for two weeks.
Two weeks turned into many months. She became the full-time receptionist, then was made a placement consultant and promoted to manager. After the owner of the agency died, she bought the Buffalo franchise in 1976.
During the next few years, the business of job placement changed. Instead of permanent hires of accountants, engineers and managers, clients at law firms and financial institutions began looking for temporary administrative aides and customer service workers. Mrs. Breen’s agency was one of the first in the area to provide them. In 1985, she changed the name Dunhill Temporary Staffing Systems.
It grew to employ 16 consultants, mostly women, and managed as many as 150 temporary workers. Affiliated with Dunhill Personnel Systems Inc., it was one of its top producing offices.
“Temping has become very normal for people to use as a bridge between jobs,” Mrs. Breen told Buffalo News reporter Nicole Peradotto in 1998. “I think there’s a misconception that (temps’) standards are lower, that they can’t get jobs. Usually they’re looking for the right job that they can commit to. You may want to try a few different places to see what it’s like. You don’t usually marry the first guy you date, after all.”
Considered one of Buffalo’s leading woman entrepreneurs at the time, she died unexpectedly Sept. 27 while visiting one of her daughters in Belmont, Mass. She was 87.
Born Lupe J. Lepina in Buffalo, one of three children, her parents were immigrants from Spain. She attended Hutchinson Central High School and graduated in 1952 from St. Mary’s Business School, where she was member of the Drama Club and debate team.
She later earned a certificate in business management at the University at Buffalo and completed an entrepreneurial course at Canisius College.
In her agency, she instituted job sharing, rest breaks, working from home and bringing children to work. She served as a mentor to women in business locally and nationally and was featured in national women’s publications.
After selling the agency to Dunhill in 1998, she remained as a part-time consultant with the company’s corporate office on Long Island, occasionally traveling to other Dunhill offices to offer expertise.
“I spend about eight hours a week working from my home – on the phone and computer – and it makes me feel productive,” she told Buffalo News business reporter Sharon Linstedt in 2000.
For several years she taught classes for employees, business colleagues and friends called “DMA and the Art of Creative Visualization,” inspiring them to “expect a miracle.”
She spoke frequently to groups about the importance of living a disciplined life, the power of positive thinking and her belief in the entrepreneurial spirit.
Mrs. Breen received numerous honors, including the Hispanic Women’s League of Buffalo Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, the YWCA Leadership Award, the Everywoman Opportunity Center Award of Excellence and the Executive of the Year Award from Professional Secretaries International.
She was among the first to receive Hispanic Entrepreneur of the Year award from Los Tainos Senior Citizens Center. She also received a Certificate of Achievement from the University at Buffalo School of Management Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
She was active for many years with the Girl Scouts and served on the Canisius College Board of Trustees with her husband, Martin B. Breen, whom she married in 1987 in the chapel at Canisius College.
She was a board member of Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) and was a member of the Women’s Group, an informal organization of local business and professional women.
She and her husband were docents at Sisters Hospital. She also prepared and hosted dinner parties and book club luncheons in her Rumsey Road home, where she created a formal European garden which was a stop for several years on the annual Buffalo Garden Walk.
She traveled several times to Spain with her twin daughters to meet relatives and show them their roots. She also visited the Cannes Film Festival and took family vacations on Cape Cod.
Prior to his death in 2011, she and her husband, an insurance agent and president of underwriting associations, visited Sarasota, Fla., every winter. She moved to Williamsville in 2012 and then to a home on Sarasota Bay in 2016.
Her first marriage in 1955 to Gene Ptak ended in divorce.
Surviving are her daughters, Jeanne M. Ptak and Deborah M. Burrows; a sister, Angela Rizzo; two stepdaughters, Lauren Kruczek and Alison Maloney; three stepsons, Martin B. Breen Jr., Brian Breen and Kevin Breen; seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A celebration of her life will be held in Buffalo at a time to be announced.
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