Mary “Marilou” Kehoe, a homemaker who volunteered with youth programs and served on the boards of the California State Fair and the Sacramento County Fair, died Aug. 28 of cancer, her family said. She was 81.
Before moving to California, the former Mary Magee had an exciting career in Washington in the 1960s. She started as an entry-level writer at National Geographic magazine and joined the staff of Rep. George P. Miller, D-Martinez, who led the House science and astronautics committee at the start of the national program to reach the moon by the end of the decade. She knew politicians including Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and famous astronauts, including John Glenn.
She also met John T. Kehoe on the congressman’s staff. They married in 1963, had three children and moved to Sacramento for his job as a legislative representative for California State University. Besides volunteering in classrooms, she immersed herself in her children’s activities in 4-H and Future Farmers of America while her husband’s career in government advanced as a top aide to Gov. Ronald Reagan.
In the 1980s, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Mrs. Kehoe to the Sacramento County Fair board and the governing board of the California Exposition and State Fair. She served about seven years at Cal Expo working to improve conditions for horses and helping develop the State Fair’s equestrian show, her husband said.
“She was very much interested in the horse world,” he said. “Our two daughters rode, and the county fair position came about because she was involved with 4-H and FFA.”
Born in 1933 in Easton, Md., Mrs. Kehoe was raised on the state’s Eastern Shore by parents who owned service stations and auto supply stores in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. She studied humanities and graduated from Penn Hall, a former prep school and junior college in Pennsylvania.
She promoted youth activities in Sacramento County and was recognized by the Board of Supervisors for her efforts in support of a planned multicultural park. She reached out to children in her 70s as a classroom aide at Del Dayo Elementary School in Carmichael.
She went on to a clerical position for about five years at the San Juan Unified School District headquarters, doing accounting and helping schools organize field trips, until she was 80.
“She was amazing,” San Juan administrative assistant Stacey Packard said. “She knew staff at schools all through the district. She really liked children and public service, and that’s what drew her here. Her work ethic and her ethics and strong values came through in everything she did.”
Mrs. Kehoe’s son, John Jr., died in 1976. In addition to her husband, she is survived by two daughters, Mary and Kathleen, three grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
A celebration of her life was held Monday. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to UC Davis Hospice Program, UC Davis Cancer Center or the American Cancer Society.