Wendy W. Contos, 68, of Conshohocken, a former copy editor at the Inquirer, died Friday, April 27, of the ongoing effects of an earlier fall at Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley in Germantown.
Ms. Contos fell down a flight of stairs at her home on Sept. 15, 2006, said her husband, Michael J. Contos. She sustained a traumatic brain injury from which she never recovered. For the past six years, she had lived at Stapeley, a retirement and nursing facility, her husband said.
Starting in 1979, she worked as a copy editor at the Evening Bulletin in Philadelphia. She was there when the newspaper folded on Jan. 29, 1982, a casualty of the newspaper circulation wars in the city.
Ms. Contos was hired by the Inquirer in 1985, but resigned in 1993 to train as a social worker. She earned a master's degree in social work from Bryn Mawr College and was licensed as a social worker in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the mid-1990s.
In 2002, she returned to the Inquirer as a copy editor, checking articles for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and accuracy. She was working for the Inquirer at the time of her fall. She retired in October 2007 for health reasons, her husband said.
Born in Lexington, Ky., Ms. Contos was the daughter of Kenneth Wright, a violinist and music professor at the University of Kentucky. Her mother, Eleanor Partridge, played and taught the piano.
Like her parents, Ms. Contos was a gifted musician. She played the cello. When she was 13, she traveled with the University of Kentucky Youth Orchestra to Washington, where the students serenaded President John F. Kennedy from the White House lawn.
"Oh, that was so exciting," said her sister, the Rev. Michele Bartlow. "It was thrilling to be there. He came out of his office and up on the podium and welcomed everybody.
"He said, 'I have a lot of work to do, but I'm going to leave my office door open so I can hear you.' There was a reception in the East Room afterward. You can imagine how thrilling that would be for high school students. It was one of the highlights of our growing up."
Ms. Contos graduated from Henry Clay High School in Lexington and the University of Kentucky in the early 1970s with a bachelor's degree in journalism. "That was her career goal," Rev. Bartlow said.
Ms. Contos was a Democrat and feminist who supported progressive causes. In 1984, she campaigned for Geraldine Ferraro, a former New York congresswoman who joined the ticket with Walter Mondale to unseat Republican incumbents President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush.
Ferraro was the first woman to run for vice president on a major political-party ticket.
Ms. Contos was thrilled when she was assigned by the Ferraro campaign to ride in a motorcade as an escort to several celebrities. She told family that singer Mary Travers – a member of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary – asked Ms. Contos to take her to South Philadelphia so that she could try a cheesesteak at Pat's King of Steaks.
In December 1980, she married Michael J. Contos, a Philadelphia native who spent 20 years as a public defender. The couple raised a son in Conshohocken.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by a son Nicholas A. Contos; grandchild, Jameson A. Contos; her sister, the Rev. Bartlow, retired pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown; and nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, May 4, at the Guckin Funeral Home, 3330 G Street, Philadelphia. Burial is private.