In Memory

Mary Parson

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04/24/14 09:45 AM #1    

Paula McLeod

Many of us have fond and meaningful memories of the best friend ever, Mary Parson.  During the 10 1/2 months of her illness, and especially at her memorial service, it became obvious that she had many facets and many friends, all of whom thought highly of her.  She always made me feel like I was special, and apparently she did that to many, many people.  In the end, she was the truly special one. 

Here's one of the won't surprise anyone who knew her, except to underscore how self-effacing she was, because I dare say almost no one knew of all these accomplishments. 


From the Chicago Tribune


Mary Parson Donnellon, 47

Magazine distributor and music buff

November 05, 2003|By Barbara Sherlock, Tribune staff reporter.
Reading opened worlds to Mary Parson Donnellon at an early age and became a passion she parlayed into a successful career in magazine and book distribution.

"She was an amazing person, very close to a Renaissance woman," said Rich Jacobsen, president of Time Distribution Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. "She was into music--there wasn't a single album you could name that she didn't know every song. Then to get into something as hard-nosed of a business as wholesale distribution."

Mrs. Donnellon, 47, of Chicago, president of Time Media Direct and former vice president and general manager of Charles Levy Circulating Co.'s magazine division, died of cancer Thursday, Oct. 30, in St. Francis Hospital in Evanston.

Jacobsen lured Mrs. Donnellon away from Levy in 1997 to create and launch the wholesale distribution division, which specializes in do-it-yourself books and magazines sold primarily at Home Depot and Lowe's stores.

"Mary created the business plan [for the division] and executed it," Jacobsen said. "It was her invention and creation. She was very bright and a strong leader who cared about the people that worked for her."

Raised in Winnetka, Mrs. Donnellon graduated from New Trier High School. While studying ethnomusicology at Harvard University, she wrote a senior thesis on Rastafarianism that included an interview with reggae legend Bob Marley. She graduated magna cum laude in 1978.

She worked for a year in the public relations department of Proctor & Gamble, where she met her husband, Kevin. The two moved to New York, where she held a job for several years in sales and marketing at Warner Publishing Services, which later became part of Time Warner.

Returning to Chicago, Mrs. Donnellon became vice president of sales at Levy, rising to vice president and general manager of its magazine division in the late 1980s.

"She was extremely talented, energetic, creative, approachable and focused," Levy President Carol Kloster said. "She led the division as we acquired several new distributorships. She was a warm, caring executive who knew nearly all of her employees on a first-name basis."

She loved the challenges of business and leading an organization, said her husband, whom she married in 1983.

"But she also was a devoted mother, who served as a Girl Scout leader for our daughter, Caroline, and a soccer coach for our daughter Lily's team," he said.

While at Levy she helped lead its efforts to have Chicago create a planned manufacturing district on Goose Island, where the company was then located.

"She believed that the city should be able to provide as many jobs as possible and needed to have manufacturing on the island that would be accessible to the city so people could have jobs," her husband said.

Mrs. Donnellon's passion for reading was shared with her two younger sisters, who credit her with the closeness they share within the family.

"Her personality was very outgoing and lively," said her sister Julie Parson-Nesbitt. "She set the tone for our family; she created excitement."

It was in the family living room that Mrs. Donnellon, an accomplished guitarist, as a teenager opened a guitar school for neighborhood children. She ran the school for several years.

Other survivors include her daughters; her mother, Barbara Parson; and another sister, Ann Parson-Lazar.

Services have been held.

09/13/14 11:08 PM #2    

Sue Schulte (O'Gara)

I have known Mary since we were campers at Camp Douglas Smith in 3rd or 4th grade! She was an amazing individual and I knew it even then. She was warm and so engaging.  I felt like she was always so happy to see me and I think she conveyed that same feeling to all whom she knew. I have missed her and continue to do so, as so many do also. Until we meet again........

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