For the better part of four decades, Newsday was a big part of Jean F. Smith’s life. Her Newsday employee badge sort of said it all. She was No. 2.
Smith, who lived for many years in East Meadow, died of natural causes Sunday at her Riverhead residence. She was 94.
Back in 1940, Newsday was a fledgling publication run out of a small Hempstead office. Smith — then known as Jean Cappa — was among its first employees.
“It was before the war and there weren’t many people living out on Long Island, not like today,” recalled her son, Ronald Smith, of Babylon. “She had the secretarial skills they needed and she worked out of the circulation department.”
Born in Manhattan, she graduated from Hempstead High School in the late 1930s.
Smith said his mother knew and admired Alicia Patterson, Newsday’s founder and editor. For many years, as Newsday grew, Smith’s job at the newspaper was to help verify the circulation numbers for advertisers, he said.
In 1946, a Newsday columnist profiled her and described how she had mastered nearly every detail of Newsday’s circulation department, including the individual routes of young newspaper carriers. When new staffers were uncertain about something, the columnist said, they were advised “Ask Miss Cappa.”
In the 1970s, Ronald recalled, “She even got me a summer job that involved personally delivering the newspaper to [Patterson’s husband and former Newsday co-owner Harry] Guggenheim” at the family mansion called Falaise in Sands Point.
Smith left the newspaper during intervals to have children but always returned. She retired from Newsday in 1984. She had many fond memories of going into Manhattan with women in the circulation department for an annual theater night and dinner at Mamma Leone’s restaurant.
In addition to her son, Smith is survived by two daughters, Jean Schneider, of Sweetwater, Tennessee; Victoria Weiner of Riverhead; another son, Martin Jr. of North Bellmore; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A visitation will be Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at McLaughlin Heppner Funeral Home in Riverhead. A Mass of Christian Burial will be said Friday at 9:30 a.m. at St. Isidore Roman Catholic Church, Riverhead. Burial will follow at Calverton National Cemetery.