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A Tribute to Jeanette McNamara

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - North Salem lost one of its icons recently when Jeanette McNamara passed away at the age of 89. She was North Salem’s first female Town Clerk and its first female Town Supervisor.

She was town clerk for 18 years, said her nephew, Frank Lieto, known to most as Beaver. “Thinking back on it, it’s pretty remarkable because it was still a ‘man’s world,’ and she was a single mom, besides. She was a widow with four kids. Even thinking about the effort of running for office… it’s hard," he said.

“One lady ran against her three times in a row, but she was never defeated. Everyone loved her. If a guy called on a Sunday for a hunting license, she would go in to Town Hall.”

Police Chief Tom Howley noted that, “She was very instrumental in revitalizing the North Salem Police Department. We had a police department, but they didn’t do routine patrols. We paid the county to patrol. So in 1983 she decided to hire part-time officers to supplement the department, we became certified, and we didn’t have to pay the county any more.”

Mrs. McNamara’s niece, Cindy Lieto, described her childhood with her aunt. “We grew up with her kids. We were one big family. She was like our mom. She inspired me when my mom passed away. She helped me through a difficult time and gave me a strong gift -- the knowledge that I could do anything I wanted to do. She was my inspiration for my career.”

“Her family was number one,” said Beaver Lieto, “and everything else followed that. She had everyone’s utmost respect and she earned it.”

Mrs. McNamara was laid to rest on Wednesday, August 10. The burial mass at St. Joseph’s Church was crowded with family, friends and admirers.

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