COOPERSTOWN – Mary Joan “MJ” Kevlin, co-publisher of The Freeman’s Journal, Hometown Oneonta and www.AllOTSEGO.com for the past 11 years, passed away Friday, June 16, 2017, at Bassett Hospital. She was 59, and had been struggling with cancer since October 2014.
MJ was born on April 19, 1958, in Endwell, to Joseph W. and Joan (Gaffney) Simmons, and was raised in Lafayette Hill, Pa. She graduated from La Salle University in 1979 and received a master’s in historic preservation planning from Cornell University in 1981.
As a planner for Jefferson County in Watertown, she met her future husband, Jim, who was an editor at The Watertown Daily Times. They married on June 25, 1983, at Our Mother of Consolation Church in Chestnut Hill, Pa.
She soon became Watertown’s first city planner, and administered the process that led to construction of 800 units of military housing in the city during the expansion of Fort Drum. She also obtained funding to begin the restoration of the city’s Frederick Law Olmsted park. Her successes brought additional responsibilities into her portfolio: For a time, she managed the city airport and the Thompson Park Zoo.
In the 1990s, she and her husband moved to Buffalo, then Pottsville, Pa., where she continued to pursue her professional interests. She served as executive director of the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, moving the organization from Bloomsburg to Harrisburg to ensure a firmer foundation for its future. She was vice chair of the Pottsville Area Development Corp. board, and was particularly interested in the redevelopment of a rare reverse-screen nickelodeon into the Majestic Theater, a community performing arts center. For several years, she taught the historic survey course in Cornell University’s Department of City & Regional Planning, documenting the architectural significance of such communities as Binghamton’s Abel Bennett location, that city’s first “streetcar suburb” and neighborhood of former state Senate Majority Leader Warren Anderson.
In 2006, then in Norwich, Conn., she and her husband purchased Cooperstown’s Freeman’s Journal, founded in 1808 by William Cooper, village founder and father of James Fenimore Cooper. A wordsmith, MJ coined the company name, Iron String Press, from Emerson’s, “Trust thyself: Every heart vibrates to that iron string.” Her husband focused on the editorial side, while she ensured the smooth operation of the company through the founding of Hometown Oneonta in 2008 and the expansion of www.AllOTSEGO.com in 2015.
Locally, she served on the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and, currently, on the board of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society.
In addition to her husband, James C. Kevlin, she is survived by two sons, Joseph J. Kevlin of Tempe, Ariz., and John C. Kevlin, his wife Meghan Burke and their daughter Kyla, of Oakland, Calif.; two sisters, Anne Lacey and her husband, Matthew, of Exton, Pa., and Karen Rylant and her husband, Keith, of Florence, Ala.; three Lacey nieces, Caitlin (David) Durkin, Anna (Ted) Hooven, and Tara (Kevin) Bogan, all of the Philadelphia area, and two Rylant nieces, Katherine and Caroline, both at the University of Alabama.
She was predeceased by her parents.
Calling hours are at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 22, at the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home, 82 Chestnut St., Cooperstown, followed by a service at 7 p.m. at the funeral home, with the Rev. Tom LeBeau, pastor, Cooperstown United Methodist Church, officiating.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Oneonta Corps, The Salvation Army, c/o Salvation Army Processing Center, Box 16310, Albany NY 12212-6310. (Each Christmas for the past decade, MJ administered the newspapers’ Angel Tree Fund, providing gifts for needy children.)
Arrangements are entrusted to the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home.