John J Leary
Times Union Editor Leary Noted for his Fierce Spirit

By CAROL DEMARE Staff writer
Published 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Albany Times-Union
Reprinted with permission of the Albany Times-Union

John "Jack" Leary, a mild-mannered newspaper man with a fierce competitive spirit who rose from copy boy to executive editor of the Times Union, died Saturday at home in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He was 87.

Up until the last weeks of his life, he continued to participate in his retirement hobbies -- painting and writing. He died of cancer after a brief illness.

Leary, who had a dry sense of humor and oversaw a large staff of reporters and editors, led the paper through turbulent times with the Dan O'Connell Democratic political machine in Albany County. Story after story was written of alleged corruption and wheeling and dealing in Albany City Hall and county government. The newspaper was seen as the enemy by the ward leaders and committee people who worked for O'Connell, and Leary was their nemesis in the 1960s and '70s.

Born Nov. 10, 1923, in Poughkeepsie, Leary joined the Times Union as a copy boy in the 1940s and worked his way up to reporter, section editor, managing editor and executive editor. He retired at age 55 in 1978 after nearly 35 years and entered a new phase of his life that included traveling, living up and down the Eastern seaboard, and spending a summer on his boat on Lake Champlain with his wife, Mary, a retired schoolteacher.

The Learys met at the University at Albany where Jack Leary was taking courses while employed at the Times Union. He had attended Ohio State University, Columbia School of Journalism and received a degree from Empire State College in Albany.

The Learys, who were married for 65 years, raised two sons and two daughters at their home in Altamont. After Leary retired, the couple eventually moved into the Stockade neighborhood of Schenectady.

He took up painting and had a studio in his home there, his daughter, Bridget Sommerville, said Tuesday.

"He continued to paint up until very recently, and he would paint the places where they lived, in Florida, in Virginia and up and down the East Coast," Sommerville said. "If they vacationed in Maine, he would paint in Maine. He left quite a collection."

Her father could have sold his work, "he was that good," his daughter said. The paintings are hanging all over the walls of the Myrtle Beach home, she said.

More recently, Leary turned to writing and self-published six books on Irish history.

"He never stopped working," Sommerville said. "He went right into taking classes, and then painting and writing books. It was hard to catch him on the telephone because he was always busy with a project."

In addition to his wife and daughter, Leary is survived by another daughter, Sharon Leary of Cleveland; two sons, Sean Leary of Pflugerville, Texas, and Brion Leary of Raleigh, N.C.; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned for a later date.

Times Union Obituary for Mary P Leary

Published October 10, 2015
Albany Times-Union
Reprinted with permission of the Albany Times-Union

Mary P Leary Leary, Mary P. WINCHESTER, Va. Mary Patricia Leary, 90, of Winchester, died Tuesday, October 6, 2015, in a local nursing home. Mrs. Leary was born May 6, 1925, in Troy, daughter of the late Joseph Feehan and Gertrude Curran Feehan. She was an English teacher. She was a member of many book clubs and was an accomplished poet and short story writer and editor. She loved family gatherings and parties. Her husband, John J. Leary, preceded her in death. Surviving are two daughters, Brigid Sommerville and her husband, William, of Winchester and Sharon Leary and her husband, David Henry, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio; two sons, Sean Leary and his wife, Dana, of Pflugerville, Texas and Brion Leary and his wife, Altha, of Raleigh, N.C.; sister, Sister Marilyn Feehan of Latham; nine grandchildren, Sean Bonney, Erica Garrity, Jennifer O'Connell, Sage Okamoto, Hailey Okamoto, Deirdre Leary, Jacob Leary, Matthew Leary and Marilyn Leary; and eleven great-grandchildren. Services will be private. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Blue Ridge Hospice, 333 W. Cork St., Winchester, VA 22601. Arrangements are being handled by Enders & Shirley Funeral Home, Berryville, Va. To send condolences online, please visit