Marian Umhey was longtime publisher and politician
Marian Callaghan Umhey, 84, of Wittenberg Road, Mt. Tremper died suddenly Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009 at the Benedictine Hospital. She was a professional journalist and editor-publisher of the Ulster County Townsman for 37 years.
She was born Oct. 24, 1925 in the Bay Ridge Hospital in Brooklyn, the daughter of John Joseph and Janet Reid Callaghan.
Coming from a community-minded Irish family, she was an activist at an early age and had become full-circle as she began working part time at the Brooklyn Public Library for 25 cents an hour when she was in parochial grammar school nearby and consequently spent 14 years of late as an aide in the Phoenicia Elementary School Library.
Mrs. Umhey also held the record for a local female in elective office, serving 20 years on the Shandaken Town and two years as supervisor, and holding sway in the Ulster County Legislature for 12 years, representing District 2, towns of Kingston, Woodstock and Shandaken.
During World War II, she edited and published a periodical for local servicemen and women in her Brooklyn neighborhood, typing the stencils and using the mimeograph machine in her church rectory. It was sent, free of charge, to grateful recipients serving all over the world.
A musician as well, in addition to the piano, she played the clarinet in a marching band and was solo clarinetist in the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra.
While attending Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School, she edited the school paper, The Laurel, was in the orchestra, as well as in debating and drama clubs. After classes, she worked as a part-time salesgirl at Namm’s Department Store on Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn.
After garnering a journalism degree at Fordham University, Marian joined the editorial department of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, starting as an assistant editor in the new promotion department, and later handled the weekly book review section, at the same time being assistant aviation editor.
Knowing that famed writer, Walt Whitman, was an early editor of the Eagle, she was happy to prepare a portion of the paper’s 100th anniversary edition, which she retained for posterity.
As an Eagle staff member, she was active in the New York Newspaper Guild.
Marian retired from the Eagle when she married Howard Charles Umhey of Mount Tremper on June 5, 1948, at the St. Francis de Sales Church in Phoenicia. During the first year of their marriage, she worked as an assistant to attorneys Francis Martocci and Bernard “Bud” Culloton of Kingston, who were then City and County Judges, respectively. She also became a correspondent and freelance writer for the Kingston Daily Freeman.
Marian Umhey then became the local editor of the Woodstock Townsman, which later became the Ulster County Townsman when she and Baird (KiKi) Godwin Minervini Randolph purchased the weekly from the Ryder Newspaper chain. At one time, they were the only paper in New York State solely owned and operated by women. Marian operated the Townsman for 37 years, selling eventually to Blake Killin. Her long-standing article “Marian’s Memos” were continued in the Phoenicia Times and the Olive Press.
While still publishing the weekly, she became the first female in history to hold any official position in the Town of Shandaken. Still in her 20s, she was originally appointed by the late Republican Town Chairman, Reginald H. Every, and then elected as a member of the town board, the youngest ever. After winning five, four-year-term elections, she was chosen to run for the Ulster County Legislature, garnering six, two-year-terms and retiring to become the first female Town of Shandaken Supervisor.
Her husband Howard, a trucking and excavation contractor, who later became postmaster at Mount Tremper for over 25 years, was happy to stay at home at night and baby-sit for their five children so that she could attend meetings.
Marian had been an active participant and member of numerous organizations, including: Phoenicia American Legion Auxiliary, the League of Women Voters, Who’s Who of American Women, the NYS Legislators Association, the Benedictine Hospital Auxiliary, the Girl and Boy Scouts, the Ladies Sewing Circle of Mt. Tremper, the Sodality of Our Lady of Lasalette, the Phoenicia PTA as well as a Jenkin’s Honoree, RSVP of Ulster County Community College, and LAOH, Ancient Order of Hibernians and the St. Francis de Sales Parish.
For several years she was an ombudsman at both Hutton Nursing Home and the Ulster County Infirmary at Golden Hill, under the auspices of the Ulster County Office for the Aging.
Together with Louise Cassese, Arlene and Martin Rubin and Betty McGrath, she was one of the founders of the Phoenicia Library and was given the honor of trustee emeritus for over 30 years of service on the library board.
During her 12-year career on the Ulster County Legislature, she was chairman of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, overseeing Ulster County Community College and also served on other committees, including youth and aging.
Surviving are her husband of 61 years, Howard; four daughters, Patricia Dale Payette of Mt. Tremper, Sheila Beth Parker of Boiceville, Sharon Anne Umhey of Chichester and Joyce Marie Umhey of Shokan; a son, James Howard Umhey of Phoenicia and a sister, Rosalia Callaghan Schwarz of Woodstock. Also surviving are 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren and several nieces, and nephews.
Her funeral procession formed on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the E.B. Gormley Funeral Home, 89 Main Street, Phoenicia. At 10 a.m. a Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at the St. Francis de Sales Church.
Burial is in the Mt. Pleasant Rural Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Shandaken Ambulance, the Phoenicia Library or the St. Francis de Sales Parish. Friends were received on Friday at the E.B. Gormley Funeral Home.
To light a memorial candle, please visit www.gormley funeral home.com.