MARY ROSS

ROSS--Mary Riepma Cowell. Mary Riepma Cowell Ross, a retired lawyer and past President of the New York Women's Bar Association, died at age 102 on February 2, 2013 at her apartment in the Pierre Hotel in New York. The cause was old age; by her own account, she was "a tough old bird" from a long-lived family. Mrs. Ross was one of the early generation of women lawyers who gained a toehold in major law firms because of staff shortages in World War II. She was also active in arts and educational philanthropy. Born in Oklahoma City in 1910, Mrs. Ross attended the University of Nebraska - Lincoln (where she pledged Delta Gamma) and graduated from Vassar in 1932 and received her law degree from Memphis State University. In the early 1940's she worked for the United States government in Washington, chiefly in the Office of Alien Property. She moved to New York in 1946 to work for what is now Rogers & Wells, where she became an expert in wills, trusts and estates. "I never would have gotten with them if it hadn't been for the war. Of course the head of my department told me, right at the start, they'd never make me a partner because I was a woman" she said in 1993. Mrs. Ross served on various committees of the American Bar Association, Bar Association of the City of New York and the New York Women's Bar Association, including its Committee for Equal Opportunities for Women in the 1940's. She served as President of the womens' group in 1955-1957. She left Rogers & Wells in 1961 to begin private practice, and also became active in philanthropic work, serving on the Board of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, the Central Park Community Fund, the University of Nebraska Foundation, and other organizations. In the 1970's and 1980's she competed in amateur ballroom dance events and in 1989 she established the Mary Riepma Ross Film Theatre at the University of Nebraska. She is predeceased by her brother, Siert F. Riepma, and sisters Freda Riepma, Lt. Col. Marjorie L. Riepma and Anna Marie Riepma Gray. She is survived by one nephew and three nieces and their children, including her fellow Delta Gamma, Olivia Gray, with whom she often exchanged the secret handshake. Her first marriage ended in divorce; her second husband, John Ogg Ross, died in 1966. In the last years of her life, she was attended with great care and tenderness by her long time housekeeper, Sigrid Dias, and Joan Kiernan with her crew of nurses, including Patricia Campbell, Teresa Cassels, Teresa Hanlon, Katherine McSweeney and Marie O'Connor.


Published in The New York Times on Feb. 26, 2013