Maryann Kelly, the Portland Press Herald’s former longtime vice president of human resources, died Sunday after a steady decline in her health following a dementia diagnosis, her family said. She was 72.

During her career with the newspaper, Kelly earned respect from the people who sat on both sides of the bargaining table and had a reputation for being fair and kind.

Maryann Kelly Jack Milton, file/Staff Photographer

“Maryann was a treasured member of the MaineToday Media family as our vice president of labor and employee relations from 1993 to her retirement in 2016,” Lisa DeSisto, CEO and publisher of MaineToday Media, said in a statement. “She endured the good times and the challenging times of the newspaper business.

“She led labor relations through five ownership changes and even more labor contracts. She was warm, genuine and cared deeply about all of our employees and we felt the same about her.”

In a companywide announcement Monday, DeSisto recalled her first meeting with Kelly in 2012.

“She had a heart of gold, was great listener, and possessed information on everything,” DeSisto said. “Her office was sought out by many. When I arrived at the company in late 2012, she was an instant friend, colleague and source of historical information. At the bargaining table, she was on top of every detail.”


“Maryann was just a wonderful person – smart, funny and down to earth,” Executive Editor Steve Greenlee said. “She could help you through a conundrum with sage advice, and she could tell a joke that would have you rolling on the floor. She also had a special knack for delivering difficult news with incredible compassion. I loved working with Maryann, and I miss her wit and wisdom immensely.”

The journalists who sat across the bargaining table from Kelly during contract negotiations said she was likable and fair-minded. They might not always agree with her position, but Greg Kesich and John Porter said Kelly was a great listener who exhibited genuine respect for their views.

Kesich, a former president and vice president of the newspaper guild, spent many hours with Kelly at the bargaining table between 2007 and 2016, a period when the Press Herald went through several ownership changes. Those long sessions left them with a lot of time to talk.

“We developed a great relationship. She knew what we needed and she understood,” Kesich said. Though they had their differences of opinion, Kelly always treated him with respect as they worked together to try to get the newspaper through challenging financial periods.

Porter, a former business reporter and editorial page editor for the Press Herald, served as chair of the guild’s bargaining committee at the time Kelly negotiated her first contract in the early 1990s. After he became an editor, Kelly reached out to Porter and asked him to collaborate with her on rewriting newsroom job descriptions.

“She always kept her sense of humor and always treated everyone with respect,” Porter said. “The Maryann I knew from sitting on opposite sides of the table were the same. That’s the definition of integrity.”


Kelly grew up in New Jersey and attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, where she earned a degree in journalism, according to her eldest daughter, Eileen Foley of South Portland.

“She majored in journalism, but never got a job as a reporter,” Foley said.

Foley admired her mother not only for her negotiating skills, but for her ability to listen to both sides.

“She was always the mediator. She could always see both sides of an issue, and she was a real powerhouse,” Foley said. “She could command a room because she was so well-spoken. Not everyone liked her, but everyone respected her.”


Niamh Kelly, a daughter who lives in Wayland, Massachusetts, said that as a young woman her mother moved to Ireland to be closer to her family. Two surviving siblings still live there while a third lives in California. During her time in Ireland, Kelly met her future husband, Kevin Kelly, who was born in Ireland. They were married in 1974.


“My mother was extremely proud to be Irish, to say the least,” Niamh Kelly said. She said her parents moved back to the United States in 1981. Maryann got a job with the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner in its human resources department. That job proved to be a springboard to her hiring by the Portland Press Herald in 1993.

The couple settled in Scarborough, where they lived for 23 years.

“She was a strong woman. Strong is a good way to describe my mother. She loved her family, but she loved to come to work,” Niamh Kelly said. “She wanted to make a difference and she found purpose in her work.”

“She woke up every day, excited about going to work. The Press Herald became a second family to her,” her daughter said.

After Kelly retired in 2016, the couple moved into the Enclave of Scarborough in 2019, a senior living community offering Assisted Living and Memory Care for residents. Kelly died there on Sunday morning, her daughters said.

Kelly is survived by her husband and four children, including her daughters, Eileen and Niamh, Kevin Kelly of Bangor, and her youngest daughter, Bridget Kelly-Rivas of Severn, Maryland.

The family has decided not to hold a public memorial service.

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