Barbara Legname, the force behind the Long Island Association's high-profile luncheons, whose speakers have included former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, died Wednesday after complications from heart surgery.

The Oakdale resident, 69, was the vice president for major events at the LIA, the Island's largest business group, where she worked for 38 years.

"She really was the heart and soul of the LIA," said president Kevin Law. "And we'll miss her."

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He said she did the sales, marketing and brochure graphics for the twice-yearly events, which have also included Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and Sarah Palin.

"She was very creative," Law said. "But she was also very kind and thoughtful."

LIA executive board member Katherine Heaviside, who is president of Epoch 5, a Huntington marketing and public-relations firm, said Legname introduced the concept of bringing big names to the LIA. And she was a master saleswoman for the events, Heaviside said.

Once businesses bought a table, Heaviside said that Legname would call back and say that for a few thousand dollars more they could get a better location -- and that she would hate to see them and their clients sitting in the back of the room.

"If raising money through events was an Olympic sport, she would be a gold medalist," Heaviside said.

Legname's family moved from Canarsie, Brooklyn, to Baldwin when she was 12, the LIA said. After marrying her husband, Bill, they moved to Kings Park. She lived in Oakdale at the time of her death. She was visiting in Florida, where she had emergency surgery because she had trouble breathing, Law said. She is survived by a sister, Roberta Lea of Stuart, Florida. Her husband died many years ago.

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She will be cremated in Florida. A funeral Mass for her will be celebrated on March 21 at the Church of St. Patrick in Huntington at 9:30 a.m. A reception will follow at the Crest Hollow Country Club, where the LIA holds many of its big-name events.

In lieu of flowers, people are asked to send donations to the Long Island Community Foundation, 900 Walt Whitman Rd., Suite 205, Melville, NY 11747. Checks should be made payable to the foundation and Legname's name should be written in the memo field.