Eileen Foley, an award-winning Blade editor who asserted the public’s right to official records and meetings and a columnist who summoned reader praise and protest, died Friday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. She was 84.
She had metastatic breast cancer, her nephew Alain Algazi said.
Ms. Foley of West Toledo was a Blade associate editor for eight years, retiring on Sept. 1, 2004. She continued to write book reviews and then letters to the Readers’ Forum.
She wrote editorials, but also a regular column under her byline on topics secular and religious, concerning criminal justice, medical care, and her Maine heritage. Generally supportive of the ACLU, Ms. Foley in defending gun ownership called it the “All-but-one Civil Liberties Union.”
“She was very feisty in her column,” said John Robinson Block, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Blade. “She evoked much more reaction, pro and con, to her views than any other column. She seemed to strike a chord with readers.”
Foremost, she was an excellent writer, said Tom Walton, who retired as editor and vice president of The Blade.
“I’d say she had the journalistic instincts to challenge authority and ask tough questions,” Mr. Walton said.
In 1999, the Ohio Newspaper Women’s Association awarded her first place in the investigative reporting category for a piece about the conviction of a man for the shaking death of his infant son.
“She always wanted to be a journalist, from reading the Brenda Starr comic strip,” said her sister, Margaret Algazi, referring to the long-running newspaper comic about an adventure-seeking reporter.
First, though, Ms. Foley was a secretary in Boston, sending money home to family in Maine. Afterward, she received a full scholarship to Brandeis University, from which she received a bachelor’s degree. She then went to the University of Michigan for a master of social work degree. She worked with children who had developmental disabilities for a state agency.
She was hired in 1968 by the Detroit Free Press as a researcher for Action Line, its public service column. She later became a reporter, with duties including the night police beat. In the late 1970s, she became a reporter and later an assistant city editor to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which like The Blade is owned by Block Communications Inc. Mr. Block hired her in 1989 to be city editor of The Blade.
“Eileen brought an enthusiasm to The Blade and to the job of city editor,” Mr. Block said. “She came to Toledo with energy.”
She was aggressive with the public’s right to know, including the right to attend meetings and access records of public agencies, said Dave Murray, Blade managing editor.
“She was a bulldog of an editor,” Mr. Murray said. “When she got ahold of a story, she would not let it go until we turned over every rock.”
She championed a series of articles by Mr. Murray and former staff writer Sam Roe, “The Secret Files of Internal Affairs,” on Toledo police misconduct.
“[She] gave us months and months to report the story, and she was a real taskmaster,” Mr. Murray said. “I can’t say enough good about her.”
Ms. Foley later was business editor and assistant managing editor for features.
She was born Aug. 7, 1934, in Portland, Maine, to Edythe and John Foley. After her mother became ill, Ms. Foley and her sister lived in an orphanage for several years. She was a 1952 graduate of Lewiston High School. She did not marry or have children, but was close to her sister’s sons, Alain and Andre Algazi.
Surviving is her sister, Margaret Algazi.
At Ms. Foley’s request, her body was donated to the Cleveland Clinic. Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Sept. 30 at Oak Openings Lodge in Oak Openings Metropark.
The family suggests tributes to the Eileen Foley Scholarship in care of the Maine Community Foundation, Portland, Maine.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.