Deborah McKenna, who worked her way up from a job in Newsday's cafeteria to become the first woman to work in the newspaper's pressroom, died Oct. 11 of a heart attack preceded by a stroke. She was 60.
McKenna, who grew up in Deer Park and graduated from Deer Park High School, worked in several other roles at Newsday, including in transportation and collating, before joining the Melville pressroom in 1980 to become its first female employee, according to her family and Newsday records.
She was proud of her accomplishment in a field dominated by men, said her daughter, Kathleen McKenna of Rocky Point.
"She wanted to be the first woman to do something," McKenna said. "She didn't mind wearing a uniform and getting dirty."
Deborah McKenna's sister, Pat Schneider of Inverness, Fla., said McKenna enjoyed the challenges of her role.
"She liked working with the guys, being one of the guys, and showing them she could do it just as well as they could do it," Schneider said. "She said, 'They think we can't do that. Well, we can.' "
Richard Lizzi, press operations manager for Newsday, said McKenna was "a natural" at the job. "Very friendly and a pleasure to work with," Lizzi recalled. "She handled her job well."
McKenna completed an apprenticeship program to became a journeyman press operator and managed a crew, but stopped working in 1995 after suffering a stroke, Kathleen McKenna said.
In her free time, Deborah McKenna enjoyed going to the movies, listening to Rod Stewart albums, and playing the lottery daily with her mother.
McKenna lived in Deer Park until illness forced her to move to a West Babylon nursing home, the family said.
In addition to her daughter and sister, McKenna is survived by her mother, Esther Fleck of Deer Park; sister Barbara Fasano of Deer Park; brother Edward Fleck of Ridge; granddaughter Kaylie Demasco of Rocky Point; and companion Paul Wandursky of West Babylon.
McKenna was predeceased by her husband, Gregg McKenna, and her father, Edward Fleck. Burial was last week in Calverton National Cemetery.