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Columnist Mary McGrory, Having Her Final Say

The mourners over the course of more than an hour were given many a McGroryism, such as the moment at a swank hotel when, bored with listening to a Cabinet official ramble on, she said, "Hey, you're the secretary of transportation -- where are the elevators?"

There were many references to the Star, which folded in 1981 but never lost its primacy in her affections. No one was surprised when the first eulogist turned out to be Phil Gailey, a former Star colleague. ("Now here are your instructions," she told him when giving him the assignment. Talk about the Star, she said, and "don't go blubbery on me the way you do when you read a dog story with a sad ending.")


Pallbearers including William Raspberry and Mark Shields, front, carry Mary McGrory's coffin from church. (Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)

Gailey talked of the heyday of the Star, when a bottle of booze might one day pop up in the newsroom and lead to an inevitable song-filled gathering outside McGrory's office. She never could get accustomed to The Post's sober newsroom events centered around a ceremonial cake, Gailey said. Even when the paper won three Pulitzers, everyone just ate cake. She thought of retiring, but couldn't. "She simply could not bring herself to face the cake."

The Post's Bill Hamilton told the mourners that when McGrory introduced him to people as her editor, "it was clear who was working for whom." When he protested that he didn't know the meaning of a word she used in a column, she replied, "That's what dictionaries are for." An editor once told McGrory that he couldn't spare one of his two passes to the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. Shortly thereafter, he looked up at a TV screen in the newsroom and saw Sen. Joseph Biden escorting McGrory to the front of the Senate chamber.

The final eulogist, her cousin Brian McGrory, a Boston Globe columnist, listed her likes and dislikes:

"She loved congressional hearing rooms. She loved the White House briefing room. She loved packed news conferences. She loved anywhere and anyplace that she could watch politicians perform in all their fullness and pinpoint their inevitable weakness.

"Mary McGrory loved being there. She loved sitting in the bar at the Wayfarer Hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire, late on a primary season night. . . .

"She loved sipping on a well-made drink, plunging into a bowl of fresh raspberries that the ever-accommodating owner brought out just for her, and doing nothing more than waxing about the day's events. . . .

"She loved peace, not war. She loved hot, not cold. She loved nights, not mornings. She loved House members more than senators. She loved the color red, things that glitter, lions, decorative turtles, and God did she love dogs."

Her final hymn was another just-right note: "Publish Glad Tidings."

There was serendipity, too -- some moments that she couldn't plan, as when the sun broke through during the end of Communion and for 90 seconds illuminated the stained-glass window above the altar.

As Brian McGrory noted, one of her most famous lines came when she covered the funeral of her beloved President Kennedy. She wrote, "Of John F. Kennedy's funeral, it can be said that he would have liked it."

And the eulogist said out loud what everyone in the room was thinking:

"Of Mary McGrory's send-off, it can be said that she would have liked it."

Staff writer Laura Thomas contributed to this report.


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