Mary Elizabeth Lasher Barnette, the first woman to work as a reporter and columnist at Editor and Publisher, died at the age of 93 in Richmond, Ind. She spent most of her career as a writer, reporter and public relations director in the Buffalo, N.Y. area.
A 1942 graduate of Ohio University’s School of Journalism, Mrs. Barnette was the first female editor of the university’s student newspaper, The Post, and was working with her staff when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. She recalled how one student ran back to his campus room to retrieve a radio so the newspaper staff could keep up with the unfolding news as they scrambled to rework the front page.
Mrs. Barnette took a year of postgraduate studies at Tobe-Coburn School for Fashion Careers in New York City thinking she would become a fashion writer. She never pursued that field, instead taking the job with Editor and Publisher from 1943-1945 before moving to the American Newspaper Publishers Association Bureau of Advertising where she again was the first woman to hold the job of Retail Division Publicist or public relations director.
She married newspaper journalist Kenneth A. Barnette after he returned from service in the Army Air Corps during World War II. They had three daughters. He died in 1969. She was briefly married to Lawrence B. Myers of Buffalo. Mr. Myers died in 1974 and she legally changed her name back to Barnette in 2007.
Mrs. Barnette, known to her friends as Mary Lib, worked for several Buffalo area newspapers. She was public relations director for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and spent 11 years (1977-1988) as the College News Service Director for SUNY Buffalo State.
As a member of Sigma Delta Chi (now the Society of Professional Journalists) she was instrumental in establishing scholarship programs for journalism students in Buffalo, N.Y. She continued that work at her alma mater, Ohio University, honoring her late father, George Starr Lasher who founded the OU School of Journalism.
She is the granddaughter of U. S. Federal Judge Frederick Lincoln Siddons, who served on the Washington D.C. District Court and presided in the Naval Oil Reserves Case known as the Teapot Dome scandal.
She is survived by daughters Elizabeth “Betsey” Alice (Robert S) Bruce, Kathleen Starr (Brian D.) Watt, and Melanie Anne (Thomas D.) Caldwell; a sister, Dorothy Siddons (Lasher) Rodgers; six grandchildren, Whitney Bruce (Patrick) Arthur, Justin C. (Stephanie Soleil) Watt, Matthew D. Watt, Kathryn E. S. Watt, Kenneth “Casey” C. (Ann) Caldwell and Patrick M. Caldwell. Her husband, Kenneth A. Barnette and a grandson, Jonathan T. Caldwell, preceded her in death.
Her brain was donated to the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center. To sign the online guestbook or to send the family a personal condolence, please visit urbanwinklerfuneralhome.com.
A memorial service will be held later this year at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. Donations can be made in her memory at Ohio U. School of Journalism or a charity of your choice.