Star copy editor Mary Kathleen Cooney died Saturday morning at Tucson Medical Center’s Peppi’s Hospice after a two-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 66.
Cooney — “Mary Kate” to family and close friends and “Mary Cake” to one of her great-nieces — joined the Star in 2000.
She “was a keen copy editor with a great eye for detail,” colleague Kathleen Allen said in a note to the Star staff. Cooney’s attention to detail spawned the term “Cooney-ized,” which meant a story or page proof had received her meticulous review.
Cooney also shared her skill and commitment to others. “When I was suddenly reassigned to the Arizona Daily Star copy desk in 2002, I had so much to learn, and my long-suffering teacher was Mary Cooney. I was a difficult student in every way, but she sighed and kept at it. I owe her so much,” Scot Skinner wrote in a May 11 Facebook post.
Cooney “had more degrees than a thermometer,” said partner Sherilyn Forrester.
She was a 1969 graduate of Mundelein College, an all-women’s Catholic school north of Chicago, where she introduced touch football to the school. “Of course, she was the quarterback,” Forrester said.
She also had a degree in library science from Florida State University and studied at the New School for Social Research in New York and at DePaul University in Chicago.
She played golf and tennis, and loved watching baseball. Her father once told her four younger brothers, “Sorry, boys, but she’s the best athlete in the family.”
Cooney also worked for the Des Moines Register and Tribune, the Tampa (Florida) Tribune and the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times. She was a social worker in Cook County, Illinois, and was a freelance book editor in Florida and in Tucson, Forrester said.
She wrote commentary in Des Plaines, Illinois, but not “girly stuff,” said her father, James, 92, who was city editor on the Des Moines Tribune and executive editor of the Register and Tribune Syndicate.
From a journalism family, Cooney’s mother, Patricia H. Cooney, who died in 1988, was a features writer and editor for the Des Moines Register and Tribune on and off for about 40 years. Brother Kevin, of Des Moines, is an anchorman at KCCI-TV in Des Moines, and his wife, Mollie, is a reporter and anchor, also at KCCI-TV. Sister Kitty Cooney Hoye also worked for the Register and Tribune.
She also is survived by three other brothers, Tim (Sandy), Brian (Janice) and Michael (Tomi). Her partner of about 20 years, Juanita Block, died several years ago.
Cooney’s father and all of her siblings gathered in Tucson to be with her in her last days.
“She was kind and had a generous heart, a sweet, sweet spirit. Her abundant grace will be missed,” Allen said.
“Mary was her own person, a unique soul,” said brother Kevin. She had many struggles, but overall “she was happy with her life.”
At Cooney’s request, no services will be held. A party celebrating her life will be scheduled in several weeks.