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Obituary: Margaret Montagno Clay Aug. 13, 1939 – March 18, 2019

on March 21, 2019 - 1:35pm

MARGARET MONTAGNO CLAY Aug. 13, 1939 – March 18, 2019

Margaret Montagno Clay passed away peacefully at home on Monday, March 18, 2019, in Los Alamos at the age of 79.

Margaret was born August 13, 1939, in Brooklyn, New York, to Della Quarto and Antonio Montagno and lived in New York until the age of 8, when her family moved to Columbus, Ohio.

Margaret hated to be the center of attention and rarely talked about her accomplishments, but she had many. Margaret graduated from St. Mary’s College at Notre Dame in 1961 and subsequently earned her Master’s in History from Fordham University in 1963. Having gained her Master’s degree, she began working at New York University and helped to set up the admissions department for their film school, which has gone on to become one of the most prestigious programs in the country.

Margaret then went on to work at Newsweek magazine from 1966 to 1978, beginning in the clippings department before going on to become a researcher. During this time, she was also active in the women’s rights movement and in 1970 was the lead plaintiff in the first ever gender discrimination suit filed against any U.S. employer. This suit attracted national attention and ultimately helped change employment and promotion practices not only at Newsweek but across the country. It is a precedent that still stands today.

She continued to work at Newsweek as an editor and writer for many years, primarily covering federal politics, which allowed her a number of unique opportunities, such as sailing on a yacht with President Nixon. Margaret made amazing contributions that helped transform the Newsweek magazine into one of the most powerful and respected news organizations of its time.

In 1978, she married Rufus Gordon Clay, Jr. They moved to New Mexico where she raised her two children, Hilary Clay and William Clay. Margaret was an exceptional person who loved her friends and family and never failed to be the most supportive person you could imagine in any possible situation. She loved gardening, cooking, football, and never got tired of the beach.

She doted on her grandsons and was always the first person her children wanted to call when anything happened, good or bad. She loved history and politics (what she called “old gossip and new gossip”) and read voraciously. She had a brilliant sense of humor and loved to laugh. She had a full life and said her only regret was that she couldn’t watch all her little grandsons grow up.

Margaret was preceded in death by her mother and father, Della and Antonio Montagno, and her brother, Anthony Montagno. She is survived by her husband of 40 years, Rufus “Pete” Clay Jr, her daughter, Hilary Clay (Stephen Wilson and son Devin Wilson), and her son, William Clay (Jenny Jin and sons Nathan, Nolan, Justin, and Jason Clay).

The family of Margaret Montagno Clay has entrusted their loved one to DeVargas Funeral Home & Crematory of the Española Valley. 505.747.7477 –