Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Remembering Mary Zunt

The magazine cover is one of our favorites around here: Cleveland councilwoman Mary Zunt clad in an orange coat and hat, and holding a huge cigar. "Women Who Could Be Your Boss," shouted the March 1974 issue's main cover headline.

"People back then were shocked by my photo because they thought I looked outrageous," Zunt recalled with a laugh when we talked to her for our December 2007 35th anniversary issue. "I had to negotiate that shot with the powers that be at Cleveland Magazine. They wanted me to wear a Bunce Brothers suit, a fedora and smoke a cigar, but I said 'no' to the suit and hat. I didn't want to appear too manly."

Zunt died Jan. 6 in a hospital near her California home at the age of 72 (read The Plain Dealer's obituary).

She may be best remembered for her time at City Hall, but she also helped establish PBS channel WVIZ, started a construction company, studied wine-making in France, cooked at a monastery and helped migrant farm workers in California.

As a young woman, she also just happened to crash the inauguration of John F. Kennedy with Mary Rose Oakar. Zunt recounted that story in the pages of our November 2008 issue.

"The best way, we figured, was to attach ourselves to those who were invited," Zunt said. "Mary Rose walked in through the hotel kitchen on the arm of a Navy violinist, and I followed a Kennedy family member from the front entrance unnoticed. While the Navy band played 'Hail to the Chief,' we stood three feet from Jackie Kennedy, JFK, Lady Bird and LBJ, all in evening attire for Frank Sinatra's gala that night at the Armory."

In addition to Zunt's exemplary public achievements, she also raised four children as a single mom.

"It's been a wonderful life," she told us in 2007. "I'm delighted that our daughters have so many choices today, but I hope they appreciate what a tough road it was for us. Many men didn't like us back then — and even a lot of women — but we're here now and we're not going away."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An amazing and inspiring life, well-lived!