Geraldine Shanahan

Geraldine Shanahan Credit: Geoff Chellis

Geraldine Shanahan, who helped earn a Pulitzer Prize for Newsday by tracking down secret land deals before going onto a long career at The New York Times, has died. She was 76.

Shanahan died of lung and brain cancer on May 15 at Trustbridge Hospice Care in Jupiter, Florida, her family said.

Shanahan, who grew up in Bethpage, graduated from Bethpage High School and Nassau Community College before going to work at Newsday, first as a research clerk in 1966.

After becoming an editorial assistant, Shanahan and a team of reporters received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for public service for a three-year investigation of secret land deals and zoning manipulations by public officials in Suffolk County.

Retired Newsday editor Anthony Marro, who was on the team that won the prize, said Shanahan “knew how to tear apart very complicated land deals that the rest of us didn’t even understand.”

“Gerri was very good at tracing back who the real owners were through wives’ maiden names and through other corporate fronts,” Marro said.    

Shanahan, who later went to work on the Newsday copy desk, joined The New York Times as an editor on the national desk in 1977 and moved into various sections during her 31 years at the paper before leaving in 2008.

Her nephew, John Prendergass, would look to her for guidance on his writing as he grew up.

“Aunt Gerri read a few things I wrote for school and if there was anyone’s opinion I valued on what I wrote down it would be hers,” Prendergass, 33, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, said.

In 2011, Shanahan moved to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. There, she referred to herself as an “avid newsy,” said her neighbor Geoff Chellis.                                                            

“She just was literally glued to the TV set whenever any major events were happening in the world,” Chellis, 63, said.

While retired, Shanahan still remembered newsrooms fondly and hosted cocktail parties with different themes reminiscent of her time working in New York, Chellis said.

“She would tell me about [how] old school reporters tended to chase down their stories and in the wee hours afterward they always went out,” Chellis said, where they “had all sorts of celebrations on the town and she just carried that on later in life in her own home and her own backyard.”

Shanahan paid attention to detail, whether that included getting a unique gift for someone or recalling someone’s taste for music, her cousin Gilda Omage of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, said.

“I think that was what made her so good at her job and probably developed more because of her job,” Omage, 69, said.

Born July 15, 1945, in Manhattan to parents Timothy Joseph Shanahan and Raephaella Iadarola, Geraldine Shanahan was the oldest of three siblings.

Kathleen Shanahan-Towey, 64, Shanahan’s sister, said at home reading was encouraged. She learned journalism skills from her sister. “She taught me how to write in high school,” Shanahan-Towey, of Jersey City, said. “She literally taught me how to edit” her own work.

She was predeceased by her parents and brother, Timothy Patrick Shanahan. She was cremated. 

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