In Memory
Mary J. Zone

(Plain Press, February 2005) Mary J. Zone, who served four terms as councilwoman on Cleveland City Council from 1974 to 1981, died Friday, January 21, 2005, at her home in Cleveland. She was 85.

A lifelong Cleveland resident, the former Mary Constantino was born December 2, 1919. She lived her entire life within a five block area from her church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of Cleveland.

Mary Constantino was raised on W. 65th Street, where she met her future husband, Michael Zone, who grew up across the street from her. They married September 23, 1944, shortly before her husband left to serve in World War II. Michael and Mary had nine children.

Mary Zone was a well-known community activist. She and her husband founded a neighborhood grocery store, Zone Food Market, in 1953 and Zone Travel in 1960. She served as President of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel PTA as was a founding board member of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization and the Nolasco Housing Organization. Most recently she was on the Board of Villa Mercedes. She received many community awards, including the Father Marino Frascati Neighborhood Champion Award from the Detroit Shoreway CDO in November 2004.

After her husband Councilman Michael Zone died unexpectedly on June 3, 1974, Council President George L. Forbes and Cleveland School Board President Arnold Pinkney asked Mrs. Zone to serve the remainder of her husband’s term. She agreed, and was subsequently elected three times. She was the first Italian-American woman to serve on Cleveland City Council and the first woman to serve as Council Majority Whip.

On the night of her husband’s death, it took over 50 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at their home. The delay infuriated Mary, and as a result her first legislative initiative was the successful establishment of the Emergency Medical Service unit in Cleveland. Her proudest day during her public service was when Mayor George Voinovich and Cleveland City Council dedicated the Michael J. Zone Recreation Center in her ward.

After her service in City Council, she worked in the Cleveland Community Development Department as a Land Bank officer and at the Ohio Lottery Commission as Deputy Director of Special Projects.
Mary’s second youngest child, Matt, currently serves as Councilman in the same near west side neighborhood served by his parents. “We were always encouraged by our parents at an early age to give back to our community, and our mother was our role model,” said Councilman Zone.

Many public officials considered Mary Zone a close friend and advisor, including former Governor Richard Celeste, former Attorney General Anthony Celebrezze, Jr., Former Cleveland Mayors Carl Stokes, Dennis Kucinich and Mike White, Mayor Jane Campbell and former Council President George Forbes. Her son-in-law, former Attorney General Lee Fisher said, “Mary was the most genuine person I have ever known. She always spoke from her heart, never minced words, and fiercely loved her family and her neighborhood.”

She was predeceased by four of her children, Michael, Jr., Mary Carmella, Mark and Marty. Marty, special assistant to David Letterman, died of AIDS in 1993. Mary actively supported programs to assist people living with HIV and AIDS. She is survived by five children, Mary Elizabeth (Beth) Zone, Madelyn Zone and Matt Zone, all of Cleveland; Margaret (Peggy) Zone Fisher of Shaker Heights, and Melissa Zone of Ft. Myers, Florida. Mary Zone is also survived by son-in-law, Lee Fisher of Shaker Heights, daughters-in-law, Pam Zone and Michelle Zone, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Her nephew is former Cleveland Councilman and current Municipal Court Judge Joseph Zone.

 

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