Anita G. Sweeney, a newspaperwoman who chronicled Oyster Bay town politics for more than two decades and who earlier helped her late husband, Daniel, rise to political power in Nassau, died Tuesday.
Sweeney, 79, was surrounded by her family and companion Arthur Tierney when she died. The cause was lung cancer, her family said.
Raised in one-bedroom Bronx apartment by a widowed mother, with five siblings, Sweeney - born Anita Geraldine Madeo in 1930 - rose to prominence in wealthy Sea Cliff, where she settled in 1964 with her husband, Daniel T. Sweeney, the former deputy Nassau County executive and an executive at Cablevision, which owns Newsday.
A mother of seven with a stylish flair and knack for hosting parties, Sweeney worked for the Nassau Democratic Party in the 1960s, holding fundraisers and knocking on doors to help Democrat Eugene Nickerson get elected as county executive.
"My dad was successful, and she was right by his side the whole time," said her son, David Sweeney of Los Angeles.
In the 1970s, she began writing for the weekly Glen Cove Guardian. In 1981, she moved to the Oyster Bay Guardian and was an energetic town government reporter for the next 20 years, said David Criblez, the paper's editor in chief. She rose to associate editor before retiring in 2001.
"She really had a zest for it," Criblez said.
Even after the paper switched to computers, Sweeney filed her stories with a 100-year-old typewriter. Staffers also recalled how, when the weather turned warm each spring, she would walk into the newsroom with a big colorful new hat.
"She was just a real character," Criblez said.
After her husband died in 2004, Sweeney was reunited with an old friend, Arthur Tierney of Connecticut, whom she knew as a teenager, and they began a relationship. As her health deteriorated this year, she decided to throw one last party. Held at the Swan Club in Roslyn on Dec. 5, about 130 friends and family looked on as Sweeney shared a last dance with Tierney.
"She was a wonderful woman who had a very generous spirit and a great love of life. She'll be missed," said outgoing County Executive Thomas Suozzi, whom Sweeney campaigned for in 2001.
In addition to her son David, Sweeney is survived by sons John Sweeney of West Islip, William Sweeney of Sea Cliff, Robert Sweeney of Texas, Daniel T. Sweeney IV of Phoenix and daughter Ellen Renjifo of Glen Cove. A son, Daniel T. Sweeney III, died at 3 months in 1955. She also is survived by four sisters Harriet Rowan of Westbury, Florie Hausman of Lido Beach, Rita Vigiano of Lakewood, N.J., and Carole Zeilman of Carle Place, and three grandchildren, Craig and Shelby Renjifo, and Danielle Sweeney.
A memorial Mass will be held Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Boniface Church in Sea Cliff. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to Making Headway, which supports families with terminally ill children. The group's Web site is makingheadway.org