Jan Cawley: “Her curiosity and generosity were the hallmarks of a memorable journalism career”

From a Facebook post by Margaret Engel about Jan Cawley:

My friend, journalist Jan Cawley, died June 6. She was a vibrant writer, whose pinpoint accuracy, unrelenting curiosity, collegial generosity and an infectious and unmistakable laugh were the hallmarks of her almost half century journalism career….

Her career included jobs at United Press International (UPI), the Chicago Tribune, A&E networks, NewsCore and Foxnews.com. She worked primarily in New York City–which she adored, fondly pointing out that her co-op building was just across the street from one where Marilyn Monroe lived during her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller.

Ms. Cawley also lived in and reported from Montreal, London, Toronto and Washington, D.C. Her career included memorable coverage of the 1986 populist toppling of Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his exile with his shopaholic wife, Imelda. After Marcos and his family were airlifted from the presidential palace, Ms. Cawley delighted in describing her first-hand look at Imelda Marcos’ fabled closet and the first lady’s massive collection of never worn expensive lingerie—as well as her better-known stockpile of 3,000 pairs of shoes.

Ms. Cawley was raised in Charlottesville, Virginia….She received both her undergraduate and master’s degree from the University of Michigan.

Her journalism career began at UPI in 1971, where she was a reporter, desk editor and bureau chief. After nine years at UPI, she was hired by the Chicago Tribune, where she worked for 15 years, covering the White House, as well as national and international stories.

She moved to New York and worked from its bureau there, buying a co-op in an elegant pre-war building on East 57th Street.Ms. Cawley shared her home with a succession of English bulldogs, (several Chumleys and Chaunceys, Tugboat and, finally, Lulabelle) who were known throughout the neighborhood by their daily walks with their gregarious owner. Her annual Christmas cards were a photo of her with her current, lolling-tongue bulldog, and a Cawley firm hand striving to still her active, squirming pet. The greetings were signed, “Hugs+Drools.”

Her home was filled with artifacts from around the world obtained during off-hours on reporting trips. Finland was a favored vacation destination that she returned to often….

One UPI editor, Emil Sveilis, recalled, “One of Jan’s truly memorable feats during her four years in Montreal with UPI was her single-handed coverage of the Blue Bird Cafe night club fire in which 37 people died in 1972. Jan stayed on the scene all night counting bodies, many of whom were found piled together because the emergency exits were chained.”…

After taking a buyout from the Tribune during a New York bureau retrenchment, she joined the Arts & Entertainment Network as a senior writer for its Biography magazine. There, she wrote rollicking and extensive profiles of luminaries, a job she held for seven years and enjoyed immensely. When the magazine folded in 2003, she joined NewsCore as a writer and editor. In 2013, she joined Foxnews.com as a senior editor, a fast-paced breaking news job she held for six years until she retired in 2019.

As her health (but not her spirit) worsened during a 17-month illness, her neighbors Jim Young and John Tatarakis tended to her needs and to Lulabelle’s daily walk schedule. Janet’s only sibling, Philip Cawley, died in April. There were no other survivors and, at her request, no funeral services. Her ashes were scattered on her dog-walking route along her beloved East 57th Street.

She requested that any memorial donations go to Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan and to the ASPCA, 424 E. 92th St., NY, NY 10128 or the Best Friends Animal Society, 5001 Angel Canyon Rd., Kanab, UT 84741. The first item in her will was a request to find a loving home for Lulabelle. Her friends Jim and John found a bulldog-loving couple with three kids to give Lulabelle a merry home worthy of her exuberant owner.

This was written with the help of Ellen Warren of the Chicago Tribune.


  1. Anne Rieschick says

    Jan, whom I always called and will continue to call Janet, worked with me at Biography Magazine, and what a joyful collaboration that was. I would ask her to fix articles and she did, calling it “taking them to the spa.” I would ask her to write articles and she did, and they were always as good as 1500 words could be. Never a fuss, never a complaint–always cheerful, enthusiastic, and professional. We remained friends until the very end. Like all of us, I will miss her.

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