Mary H. McLaughlin in 2012.

Mary H. McLaughlin in 2012. Credit: League of Women Voters of Suffolk County

Mary H. McLaughlin, the Suffolk League of Women Voters’ legislative director who served as the group’s watchdog over county government for a decade has died. She was 86.

McLaughlin of Huntington Bay died Friday at the Visiting Nurse Service's Hospice House in East Northport following a stroke a week earlier.

“She was our go-to person for all things having to do with the county legislature,” said Lisa Scott, president of the Suffolk LWV. “She gave us the insider view of the interactions between lawmakers as well as the content of legislative resolutions. … She was also very patient in mentoring us” on various legislative maneuvers. Scott added that McLaughlin’s “pet peeve was certificates of necessity,” which allow the legislature to vote on measures without advance notice or winning approval in committee.

“She was selfless, always thinking of others before herself,” said Judie Gorenstein, a veteran Huntington League official. “If she thought you'd be interested in an article, she’d clip it out and mail it to you with a note. And what made her so special is that she always knew what you’d be interested in.”

“She was a consistent presence at the legislature,” said Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague). “And she was always engaged in making sure government was open and transparent.”

Born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, McLaughlin was one of two children. When her father became history department chairman at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, her family moved and she graduated from Reading High School. She later graduated from Skidmore College in upstate Saratoga Springs in 1954, with a degree in sociology. Upon graduation, she moved to Greenwich Village and worked in New York City.

During her career, McLaughlin worked for the New York City Board of Education for 25 years, where she rose to be a deputy of the superintendent of high schools, according to her family. Earlier, she worked for five years under former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt at the American Association for the United Nations. She also worked at the National Council of Churches, the Public Education Association and Encampment for Citizenship.

In December, 1970, she married Frederick McLaughlin, who also worked at the city education board, and then the couple moved from New York City to Huntington Bay. Her husband died in 1985.

A violinist from youth, McLaughlin was active in community orchestras and chamber music groups throughout her life. For many years, she wrote grant applications for the Island Symphony Orchestra to get state and county funds. She also sang in the choir and was part of the altar guild of St. John’s Episcopal Church of Huntington.

Survivors include her niece, Emily J. Stevens of Atlanta, and her nephew, Guy H. Stevens of Washington, D.C.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. April 22 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Huntington. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the League of Women Voters New York State Education Fund, St. John’s Episcopal Church and Visiting Nurse Service of Suffolk County.

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