Obituary Notices and Memorials

 
 

MCNELLIS, MARY
McNELLIS, Mary A pioneer female Antelope Valley real estate broker, died recently in Palo Alto, California, after a long illness. She opened McNellis Real Estate in the early 1960's in an era where few women were business owners and operators. Her 'all-girl' office used innovative (for the time) marketing tactics. They all dressed in black and white and all material relating to the company, from signs in front of houses to billboards, were done in black and white. Mary Margaret Powers (McNellis) grew up in Queens Village, New York, one of six children. She attended Andrew Jackson High School where she was both captain of the swimming team and a cheerleader. During World War II Þve of the six Powers siblings saw active military duty (the sixth was too young too join). After training at Oklahoma A&M College, Mary became a Petty OfÞcer in the WAVES, stationed at Patuxent River, Maryland. Thats where she met her husband, John ('Jack') E. McNellis, then a Navy pilot. The couple moved several times during Jacks career, ending up in Lancaster. Jack played an active role in the aerospace industry before his death in the 1960s. He worked for North American Aviation on the dry landing of the Space Capsule during the Cold War. He was also head of the Chamber of Commerce and active in everything from Little League to local politics. Mary first entered the real estate industry when the family lived in Ohio. The all-male real estate association in Columbus did not allow female members at the time. She didnt let that stop her career. After moving to Lancaster, she quickly became a real estate broker. McNellis Real Estate was located on Lancaster Blvd. and was one of the top real estate companies in the Antelope Valley for decades. She was an astute marketer. Throughout her decades in real estate she hired only female sales personnel. At the time, newspaper articles reported extensively on the 'all-girl' team. One of the features in The Antelope Valley Ledger Gazette, a predecessor to the Antelope Valley Press, noted that 'damsels on parade, costumed in white waists and black skirts, is the latest theme of the all-girl house sales.' The black and white color scheme was reßected in all materials associated with the company, including signage. It was a clever way of distinguishing McNellis Real Estate from rivals. A long-time member of the Antelope Valley Board of Realtors, Mary was also chairman of the Antelope Valley Community Chest. She was also an avid bridge player, becoming a life master. Mary is survived by four of her Þve children. The four McNellis siblings are all graduates of Antelope Valley High School. Maryanne McNellis is a journalist and academic. She worked for publications including the Los Angeles Times, Business Week Magazine and the New York Daily News. Most recently she was the Pollner Distinguished Professor of Journalism at the University of Montana. Kathleen McNellis has a PhD. in cognitive Psychology from Cornell University. She has worked many years as a psychologist in New Jersey. John McNellis is a successful commercial real estate developer based in Palo Atlo, Calif. He has a law degree from Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. Patrick McNellis is currently a consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations, based in Rome, Italy. He has a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C. Mary is also survived by eight grandchildren. The seven grandchildren with the McNellis last name are (in alphabetical order) Caterina, Courtney, Erin, Erik, Jack, Jamie, and Jenny. The eighth grandchild is Michael Cunningham, the son of Kathleen McNellis and James Cunningham. She has one great- grandchild, Josephine McNellis, daughter of John's son Erik. Service arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Sacred Heart Church, Lancaster.

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