Obituary

Mary Barnett

July 19, 1923 to December 2, 2014

Born Mary Brooks Ogg in Los Angeles, Mary Barnett graduated from UC Berkeley (1944) after serving there as editor of the Daily Cal.

Starting as a cub reporter for the San Jose Mercury News at age 20, Mary had a journalistic career spanning over 50 years, writing for many newspapers including the Valley Press, the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, the Aptos Greensheet, and several weeklies from Lodi, Yreka, Red Bluff, as well as for many national magazines with feature articles in diverse subjects — especially travel, garden and health.

She was founder of the Obispo News Service in the 1960s, covering San Luis Obispo County for the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee before becoming co-owner/editor of the Ruidoso News in New Mexico to close out that decade.

Mary was devoted to the truth — she was an investigative journalist who was dedicated to holding the government accountable to its citizens. She exposed many "back-room" deals in her time.

Mary didn't only speak truth to power: she spoke “You better watch your ass” to power. She exposed the failure of the proposed Zayante Dam project to provide adequate earthquake protection, inaccuracies in water volume, and other problems that resulted in the eventual discontinuation of this project (After the 1989 earthquake, Mary felt she'd saved many people because that dam was never built).

As well, she was very involved in the halting of a massive sewer project planned for the San Lorenzo Valley, by showing inaccuracies in the reporting of water contamination that was being used to justify the project.

Furthermore, the riparian meadow of Henry Cowell Park was saved negative environmental impact because of her research and reporting of the proposed building of tent cabins in one of the few remaining meadows of this kind in California. Like in several of her investigations, she proceeded despite opposition even from her newspaper bosses.

Mary was very active in her Democratic Party — voting in every election from FDR's last term on — and was a strong advocate for civil rights.

While in San Luis Obispo in the late 1960s, she organized the highly successful "Strike Out Measles" campaign, bringing in local hero and Cy Young Award-winner Jim Lonborg of the pennant-winning Boston Red Sox to help in the cause.

Her passion for the environment included an expertise in native plants, mushrooms, and birds. She maintained active membership in both the Sierra Club (over 50 years) and the California Native Plant Society.

Her hobbies included photography, watercolor painting, and hiking through nature. Her long list of interests spoke to her desire to grab what she could from each day of life and make the world a bit better for having lived in it.

Mary was known for a raging temper, an unshakeable single-mindedness, and sometimes cursing like a sailor, but would turn out article after article, well-researched and often including tidbits of information that others had preferred to be swept under the rug.

She always knew from her earliest days she wanted to be a journalist. She was incredibly passionate about justice, fairness, and truth, and if she had passed in her heyday, a great throng of high-ranking officials and political office holders would have paid their respects.

While she wrote news copy well into her 70's, she eventually developed a dementia that slowed her participation, but never dampened her enthusiasm for life.

Mary leaves behind three sons: Fred Barnett of Ben Lomond, Dan Barnett of San Francisco, and Michael Fitzgerald of Ben Lomond, as well as a daughter-in-law, Becky Fitzgerald of Ben Lomond, and former daughter-in-law, Joanie McMillan of Felton.

She is also survived by eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Mary was preceded in death by her husband Barney, her parents and brothers, and many of her friends.

The family hopes that there are those still living who can remember her numerous by-lines and will honor her memory by booting out a corrupt official in her name.

In honor of her memory, donations to Hospice of Santa Cruz or any local environmental group in her name would be appreciated.

A celebration of Mary's life will be held on Sunday, Feb. 1, at her son Michael's house at 1 p.m. Please email mcfitzgerald@sbcglobal.net for directions to the house and/or to share memories.

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