Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Born in NM, he had a varied career, but was a journalist at heart

Copyright © 2021

Kay Cooper McKinney worked for a US Senator and the US Department of Education and Justice, but was previously a newspaper reporter for the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times and The Albuquerque Tribune.

Kay Cooper McKinney

Like her late mother, Val Cooper, who was editor-in-chief of the Farmington Daily Times, McKinney was a journalist at heart.

Sue Major Holmes, who worked for The Associated Press’ Albuquerque office from 1975 to 2011, met McKinney at the University of New Mexico, where both studied journalism.

“Outside of her homework, Kay was just fun to be with,” said Holmes. “She had this sense of the absurd. But she was very serious about her schoolwork and being a journalist. It was her family business, so to speak, because of her mother. She knew what she wanted to be. It wasn’t just ‘I’m going to do this because I don’t know what else to do’. “

McKinney died on November 5 at her home near Old Town after a two-year battle with cancer. She was 74.

On Thursday at 9.30 a.m., a rosary will be celebrated in the Catholic Church of San Felipe de Neri, 2005 N. Plaza NW in the old town, and a funeral mass will be celebrated at 10.00 a.m. A reception will follow.

Survivors include daughters Kathy Low and Ellen McKinney; Grandsons Jeremy Low, Candace Low, and Stephanie Metteauer; Great-grandchildren Jeremy James Low Jr., Jaedin Low, Jordan Low, and William Warren Metteauer; Nephew Ireke Cooper; Niece Alison Cooper; Sister-in-law Manalynn Cooper; and stepsister Kristin Kailey.

Funny and lively

McKinney was born in Santa Fe but grew up in Farmington after her mother joined the Daily Times in 1953. She graduated from UNM in 1970 and joined the Caller-Times where she covered police, court and town hall beats and wrote feature stories.

At the Caller-Times she met the reporter Jerry McKinney, the divorced father of two young daughters. They married in February 1972 and Kay became the mother of Jerry’s two daughters.

“We may not be related to Kay, but we are very much like her,” said Low. “I got their (bad) sense of direction, hesitation and funny comments.”

Daughter Ellen said McKinney was fun and lively.

“She always had that grin in pictures, even in her wedding photos,” said Ellen. “I love musicals because they always took me to see them at Popejoy Hall.”

Kathy said McKinney made the felt Christmas stockings she and Ellen still have.

“And she also made stockings for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she said.

In 1974 the family moved to Albuquerque and both Kay and Jerry joined the staff of the Albuquerque Tribune. Jerry covered politics. Kay wrote feature sections, worked on the news and sports departments, and built up the Tribune’s entertainment department. She was twice president of the Albuquerque Press Club.

DC and Tokyo

In 1981 Jerry McKinney went to Washington, DC to serve as the press secretary for New Mexico MP Joe Skeen. Kay left the Tribune that year to join her husband in Washington. She worked as deputy press secretary and campaign spokeswoman for US Senator Harrison “Jack” Schmitt in 1981 and 1982, and worked for the Department of Education for seven years and a further seven years for the Justice Department in a variety of roles, always on the writing and editing that suited her in blood.

In 1985, Jerry moved to Voice of America, the US government’s broadcasting service. He and Kay lived in Tokyo, Japan, from 1993 to 1995 when Jerry was director of the VOA office there.

The couple returned to Albuquerque in 2002. Jerry died in a rafting accident in 2006.

Neighbors Frank and Mary Padilla got close to Kay as they helped each other with home projects and as parishioners at San Felipe de Neri Church.

Kay volunteered in the Church’s gift shop, served as a Eucharist, and was a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society Conference of the Congregation Helping the Poor and Sick.

“She was part of the counting team that would count (church) collections,” said Mary. “Myself and she and a few others were working on a church cookbook, Memories and Recipes, which was printed three times. Kay rocked babies in the hospital and knitted hats for them. She loved country music and Hallmark Christmas movies. “

And sport.

“She would go to Lobo football and basketball games with us,” said Frank. “She would scream and scream and interact with the people around us. We went after the soccer games, but we didn’t want to cook. We just stopped on the way and got hamburgers. Even if she was sick, we would call her and tell her when the Lobos would be on TV.

“Our friendship grew and grew. We had a good time.”

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