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North Shore NOW icon Buckley retires

June 6, 2012

A North Shore icon is retiring.

She is not an appointed official, nor is she an elected official.

But her impact on the area has been as great, if not more so.

She is NOW reporter Mary Buckley, who is finishing up her last week with us.

Mary has been reporting on the North Shore since April 1989, back when the papers were known as the Heralds.

She was there at the formation of the North Shore Fire Department, covered too many devastating floods and attended thousands of school board, village board and common council meetings - always to inform her readers about what was going on in their communities.

She can't pick a favorite story. Who could after 23 years? When pressed, she notes the redevelopment of Bayshore and the consolidation of all the individual fire departments into one as two of the more epic achievements for the North Shore that she has covered.

As for memorable people, there are too many to count. In the last five or six years, two men have stood out.

Mary interviewed Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver as he was conducting a youth football camp at Brown Deer High School. She came away impressed with the man and his dedication to children. She continues to cheer him on to this day.

It was the Driver football camp that also introduced her to Brown Deer resident and businessman Stan Kass, whose company provided scholarships for kids who couldn't afford to attend the camp. Kass turned out to be quite a philanthropist for the area, most notably stepping in and saving Gilda's Club from closing its doors. Kass offered to fund its programming as the Jewish Community Center provided the club with a new home.

Officials mark service

For the past few weeks, most of the village boards and common councils on which she has reported have honored her in various ways. The tributes are well deserved, but like most reporters and photojournalists, Mary prefers to report on those in the spotlight rather than stand in it.

One official summed it up when he said he didn't always agree with what she wrote, but she has always been fair and accurate in her reporting.

For us, as you might imagine, the prospect of losing such a respected colleague is daunting, at best. The reporters we hire have big shoes to fill.

Although Mary worked out of her home, she was a leader in the newsroom, providing ideas and opinions and helping mentor younger reporters.

I have been with Community Newspapers for 10 years, about half of those have been as North Shore editor. As a new editor in 2004, I was quite nervous taking over in the North Shore. It has the most communities of any paper CNI produces, and in 2004, it had the largest news staff as well - five reporters (later six, when Mequon and Thiensville were added) and two photographers. Mary was an invaluable resource to me, knowing the players and the histories of myriad issues.

Coverage duties increased

Mary has taken over covering more and more communities, especially in the last three years, due to staff cuts. At one point, she was the only reporter in the North Shore - that's nine municipalities, eight school districts and the North Shore Fire Department to keep an eye on. To say she's highly organized would be a massive understatement.

She made it look easy.

Community journalism is a vocation - none of us do this to get rich or become famous - and Mary's dedication and talent are unquestioned.

More importantly, she is a dedicated wife, mother and grandmother.

I am lucky to call her friend.

I will miss Mary's professionalism, keen observations and her amazing efficiency.

But most of all, I'll miss our daily talks when I can hear a hint of her Maine accent as we discuss stories she's working on - and then go off on some tangent that usually leaves us laughing.

So, to my friend Mary, I bid adieu and not goodbye.

And I look forward to more long chats that end in laughter.

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