Our Friend Mary Grady


Perhaps it’s my imagination, but I think long-term relationships in the workplace aren’t as common as they once were. Because of the work we do at AVweb and the predilection of our management, we tend to attract and retain marathoners rather than sprinters. One of those was our dear colleague Mary Grady, who died this week after a long illness.

That Mary was a stalwart is evidenced by the fact that she joined AVweb not too long after it launched in 1995 and despite the physical challenges of illness, she wrote regularly until just a few weeks ago. She wrote when she felt poorly and she wrote when she had to cover another editor traveling for a week. She hauled her laptop into the clinic and covered news cycles under the mirthless drip of chemotherapy. Courage and determination are the overused currency of the eulogy, but I can apply no better words than those.

Editorial operations like ours have a manic pace—weeks of routine news and content production, leavened by breaking news and the pressure cooker of show coverage. While the rest of us cycled through phases of blown gaskets, Mary was the steady hand who could generate just the right amount of excitability to soldier through a difficult deadline. And she always did.

Those of us who grew up in the news business, who spent time street reporting and who had heard the clatter of wire machines and labored in chaotic news rooms, can always recognize others of our ilk. News sense is part of it and so is the stamina to chase stories, but mainly it’s the writing and Mary could bring it. Boy, could she bring it. Crisp, precise and quick. Always quick.

Of the past few years, Mary couldn’t travel much so she supported our show coverage with what we call outside news—stuff that’s happening beyond the fence at AirVenture or Sun ‘n Fun. She could bury us in copy if we needed it and we often did. She did so without drama, without complaint and never a hint of strain.

Others will speak for themselves, I’m sure, but I secretly think all of us long to be as kind, as decent and just plain gentle as Mary was, if we could just imagine how. For me, Mary Grady was the sort of colleague and friend you could always count on and who would always be there. And one day, she wasn’t. Goodbye is hardly sufficient. — Paul Bertorelli

I knew Mary for 20 years, in that way you “know” someone you interact with mostly online, mixed with sleep-deprived, deadline-fueled meetups at OSH. Mary was a senior editor; I was just the lowly copy editor. It didn’t matter: Mary treated everyone she met with kindness and respect. She brought out the best in all of us, mentoring new journalists who’ve joined us over the years.

Mary shepherded me around the field my first trip to AirVenture and managed to wrangle my newbie enthusiasm (“Look at all the airplanes!”) with a patient but disciplined focus on our work. And she made it look effortless. I recall her walking up to a booth manned by Tuskegee Airmen, chatting and jotting a few notes, and suddenly there was this fully drawn story with nuance and character and history I wasn’t even aware I’d overheard.

She was a pro, sure—but I also think she had a deep, abiding curiosity about the world and people’s stories. We are all richer for it.

She filled in as executive editor during a staff transition inAVweb’searly days. She had final responsibility for the publication, but I don’t know that that was an ambition; I think there was simply a job to be done and Mary, as always, rose to the challenge. She and I would trade tips about how to strip out rogue characters from redlined Word files, because back in those halcyon days the Flash had to be plain text with a maximum of 72 characters per line.

Technology marched on (only to fail in spectacular new ways). Mary remained unflappable. Our go-to gal. Our conscience. Our anchor.

She and I talked some about her illness. Ever the optimist, she talked about the luck still on her side, thanked her family and friends, and joked about finally having some deadline-free time to enjoy the city, the ocean, the kayaking, her lavender farm. She earned it.

Thanks, Mary. I miss you.— Jennifer Whitley, AVweb copy editor

Hot air balloons and airships. Mary Grady was my go-to authority for reliable facts on anything having to do with these flying machines, and it’ll be impossible to put my eyes on a balloon or blimp and not remember this lady for it. And a lady she was. Always genuine and soft spoken, yet steady and focused, Mary had a calming way that helped reel in the rest of our team when stressful on-and off-location coverage began to take its toll on the nerves. More than one AirVenture and Sun n’ Fun airshow comes to mind.

“I’m just happy to be at AirVenture,” I heard her remark one very late working night in Oshkosh. That explained it, and just a small part of who she was. There was more than aviation in her eyes. Both New Englanders who shared a lively passion for watersports, I accepted her chiding that my standup paddle boarding isn’t “real” water paddling. After all, her work aboard NOAA’s Ron Brown research ship and also as research crew on several tall ships meant that I should think twice before arguing her claim.

And no one can argue that Mary Grady didn’t work hard on conservation protection efforts in her home state of Rhode Island, and educating her geography students at Rhode Island college, while all along consistently delivering an inspiringly high-quality of reporting to her aviation audience.—Larry Anglisano

Mary was one of AVweb’s first journalists, and one of the best. She brought her long experience as a newspaper reporter to our fledgling internet news service, together with her love of aviation. It was a wonderful combination. —Mike Busch, AVweb founder

So sad. She was so nice and always a pleasure to speak with. I’m sorry for your team. —Mike Goulian, Red Bull Air Race pilot

Mary was an old-school journalist, careful, methodical, fair and balanced but she had her eye on the future. She loved covering the innovators, inventors and fresh talent in aviation to put a spotlight on their passion.

She was kind, tough, even-handed and while she looked for the best in everything and everyone, she never shied away from calling out injustice and dishonesty. It was an honor to work with her and she and her gentle and confident influence will be missed. — Russ Niles, AVweb contributing editor

Mary played a small but critical role in preparation ofIFRMagazine, and was almost completely unrecognized for her part. Mary provided a regular monthly one-page overview of important aviation news items that appeared as a general part of the magazine.

Her material was always first rate and required no copy editing at all. I often mused that I wished I could bottle her professionalism, enthusiasm, respectful cooperation, and general excellence and use it to teach my other contributors.

Mary is missed, and we’re all saddened and a bit worse off for her passing.

Frank Bowlin, IFR Magazine Editor

She did so many interesting things apart from, and in addition to, the aviation world. She was one special lady and will be sorely missed. — Crystal Loonsfoot, former colleague