CAPE VINCENT, NY — Syracuse native Mary Mara has died while swimming in the St. Lawrence River near Cape Vincent, NY. Authorities in Jefferson County believe she drowned sometime on Sunday morning, June 26. She was 61.
For 32 years, Mary worked as an actor in film, television and the theater. Over her remarkable career, she appeared in more than 130 films and television episodes, in addition to stage productions off-Broadway and in Los Angeles. Her last movie, “Break Even,” was in 2020.
Mary’s credits included movie roles in “Mr. Saturday Night,” with Billy Crystal; “Love Potion No. 9,” with Sandra Bullock; “The Hard Way,” with Michael J. Fox; and “A Civil Action,” with John Travolta, among many others. On television, she co-starred as Inspector Bryn Carson in the CBS police procedural, “Nash Bridges,” and created the recurring role of Loretta Sweet in NBC’s pathbreaking medical drama, “ER.” She also played Mrs. Sullivan on Showtime’s “Ray Donovan,” and appeared numerous times on United Paramount Network’s “Star Trek: Enterprise.” On the stage, she turned in accomplished performances at venues from the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York to the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
Mary was loved, admired and respected not only by her family and friends, but also by her audiences and colleagues in the entertainment industry. News of her death appeared in major media across five continents. Along with many in “the business,” fellow actor James Woods immediately tweeted out praise and condolences. Billy Crystal dedicated the June 28 performance of his musical, “Mr. Saturday Night on Broadway,” to Mary’s memory.
Born Sept. 21, 1960, Mary was the fourth and youngest child of Roger J. Mara and Lucille Mayer Mara. Her father was a businessman, politician and director of special events for the New York State Fair. Her mother was a pilot and control-tower operator at the Syracuse airport early in her life, and eventually became a financial analyst for the City of Syracuse.
Mary’s dramatic talents developed at Thomas J. Corcoran High School in Syracuse, where she starred in plays and excelled in regional public-speaking competitions before graduating in 1977. In the late 1970’s, she moved to Denver to work with her brother, Roger J. Mara, Jr., a professional puppeteer and producer who won a regional Emmy Award for a video series about bullying.
In 1980, she moved to San Francisco Bay Area, where she co-founded a local theater group and attended San Francisco University. While still an undergraduate, she was admitted to the Yale School of Drama (now the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University), where she earned a Master of Fine Arts certificate in 1988. Throughout her career, she lived mainly in New York City and Southern California, before returning to Syracuse in 2019.
Mary is survived by her stepdaughter, Caitlyn Mersola, of Sylmar, Calif.; her sister, Martha Mara, of Syracuse; another sister and brother-in-law, Susan Mara and Scott Dailey, of Kent, Wash.; and a nephew, Christopher Dailey, of Sammamish, Wash.
Plans for a memorial are in progress.
Donations in Mary’s memory may be sent to the Burbank Animal Shelter in Burbank, Calif., where Mary adopted her beloved dog, Lady. Donations may also go to the Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter in Jamesville, NY.
Mary loved the Thousand Islands and the St. Lawrence River perhaps more than anywhere else. Like many in Syracuse, she began going there as a child, and vacationed there nearly every summer. “The River” was Mary’s peace, solace and renewal. Now, it has carried her home.
Arrangements are with Frederick Bros. Funeral Home, Theresa, NY.
To leave condolences go to www.frederickbrosfuneralhome.com and access the obituary. Click on the Tribute Wall located on the top left.