Kathleen A. Coleman, 74, of Westmont, a longtime national advertising sales representative at The Inquirer and a former local theater actress, died of ovarian cancer on Saturday, Dec. 18, at her home.

After working different secretarial jobs in the Philadelphia area, Mrs. Coleman landed a position in 1960 as a secretary in the advertising department at The Inquirer.

She quickly rose through the ranks to become a national advertising representative, handling appliances, food, and - the most coveted at the time - liquor accounts, said her husband, J. Kingston Coleman, a former Inquirer photographer.

During her last few years at The Inquirer, she was a cooperative advertising coordinator.

In 1988, she left the paper to join her husband in San Diego, where she held various advertising-related jobs until she fully retired in 2001. She and her husband moved back to South Jersey in 2002.

The eldest of nine children, Kathleen Charette was born in Providence, R.I., and raised in Wallum Lake, R.I., graduating from Burrillville High School in 1954.

She did about one semester of college in Rhode Island before moving to Philadelphia, where her mother was from and had family, to pursue acting. She was a member of various theater groups in the city for a few years, her husband said.

After working at The Inquirer for a few years, she started taking night classes at the University of Pennsylvania in subjects such as anthropology. She also continued her interest in the arts and was a fan of opera.

In 1974, she met her future husband at work, and the couple married in 1977.

With a daughter of her own and four of her husband's young children, Mrs. Coleman kept busy balancing work and raising a family. But she loved being the matriarch and taking care of her family.

"She was a firecracker," her husband said. "She loved to engage in conversation but did not tolerate fools."

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Coleman is survived by daughter Gabrielle Charette and stepchildren Gabrielle Clayton and Christopher, Geoffrey, and Justin Coleman; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22, at Holy Savior Catholic Church, 50 Emerald Ave., Westmont.

Mrs. Coleman donated her body to science.

Contact staff writer Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917 or cvargas@phillynews.com.