Marilyn Bailey had a flair for words and loved being a newspaperwoman.
During a 36-year career at the Minneapolis Tribune, and later the Star Tribune, she played a leading role, editing some of the major news stories of the 20th century. She also wrote eloquent book reviews. Throughout her career she was a copy editor, an assistant news editor, a features editor and acting books editor. After she retired, she contributed numerous travel articles.
Bailey died in Folkestone senior living facility in Wayzata on April 28 at the age of 87.
“She was very proud to be on the staff of the Star Tribune,” recalled Tom Novitzki, a friend and her attorney.
Bailey’s husband, Arnold, died in 1980. They had no children. The couple met on the copy desk and were married in 1965. “She always boasted that she and Arnie were the only people who could share a typewriter at the Star Tribune,” Novitzki said.
Bailey grew up in Mandan, N.D., and was interested in newspapers as a child.
“My dad would bring the typewriter home from the office so my mother could type up recipes, and I made a little neighborhood newspaper,” she told Jon Collins in a 2011 interview as part of a historical project interviewing journalists.
Bailey graduated from Mandan High School and then Bismarck Junior College. “The best journalism departments at that time were Columbia [University] and the University of Minnesota, so that’s why I came down here,” she told Collins.
After graduating cum laude from the U in 1954, she was hired as a copy editor by the Tribune. “She was always proud that they hired her,” said Novitzki. “They weren’t hiring many women at that time.” One of the biggest news stories of her era was the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
“She was the editor to make sure all of the facts were consistent and accurate,” said Novitzki. “This was a huge deal to her. It was an electric atmosphere when all hands were on deck.”
When former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill died on Jan. 24, 1965, it was late at night in Minneapolis and Bailey was the only staffer left in the newsroom, said Steve Ronald, a retired assistant managing editor. Bailey called a bar where newsroom staff often went after their shifts to tell them to come back to work on a makeover for Page One, Ronald said.
Marilyn Hoegemeyer, a retired assistant city editor, said Bailey had a knack for writing good headlines quickly. “She really cared about what she was doing. She edited entertainment and television for Variety. She would go home from work and turn on ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and make sure they didn’t have anything we didn’t have.”
Bailey, who served as interim books editor, also wrote elegant book reviews. Her 1972 review of an autobiography by British actor David Niven began: “You know the scenario. The Englishman from genteel poverty who skittered through the right schools narrowly averting disasters from his peccadillos, graduated from Sandhurst, did his bit for king and country, and eased into the best circles, thanks to his wit and audacity. The role was usually played by David Niven. It still is. Moreover, it turns out the lad wasn’t acting; he was reliving his life story.”
In her retirement, she continued to follow the Star Tribune closely. “She lived and died with you guys,” said John Qualy, her stockbroker and friend. “Marilyn just loved the Star Tribune. If it didn’t show up on time, she raised holy hell.”
Bailey traveled extensively in retirement and wrote travel articles for the Star Tribune, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Midwest Living magazine.
Funeral services have not yet been scheduled.
Staff librarian John Wareham contributed to this report.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224