Margaret Zack, a longtime Star Tribune courts reporter known for her legal expertise and as a leader in the women's pay-equity movement, died from complications of Alzheimer's disease on Oct. 21. She was 77.

Zack, an attorney and longtime elected officer for the Newspaper Guild, spearheaded a fight that led to a 1990s settlement with Star Tribune management to increase pay for women who were paid less than men for similar reporting and editing work.

"Marg was most proud of that back pay and 'merit pay' raises that she negotiated for the women," said Dr. Denis Zack, her husband and retired dental director of the Minneapolis Health Department. "Marg always put the needs of others — friends, family, co-workers and even strangers — before her own needs."

He called his wife "empathetic and generous" and said she did not consider the pay case about her own salary but about the fair treatment of women.

"Margaret wasn't a religious person," he said, "but I have never known another person more deserving of heaven."

Zack grew up Margaret Storhoff on a farm in southeastern Minnesota. She first joined the Star Tribune in 1966 after graduating from the University of Minnesota.

Zack wrote articles for the "women's pages," including wedding announcements, food stories and features, recalled her longtime colleague Marilyn Hoegemeyer, a retired Star Tribune editor.

Zack then worked for a St. Louis-area newspaper for a couple of years while her husband served in the military.

She returned to the Star Tribune in 1969 and started covering Hennepin County courts in the 1970s.

She worked while attending night school at what is now Mitchell-Hamline School of Law.

She graduated and was admitted to the Minnesota bar in 1984.

Zack was a productive, collaborative reporter who was valued for sharing her legal insights and court cases with other reporters, her peers said.

She had an unassuming style that belied her expertise and often worked with other reporters on legal stories.

"She was one of the most generous reporters," Hoegemeyer said.

"She would find stories and get tips at the courthouse and often turn them over to other reporters, whether they were about sports, government, city hall or business," she said. "That was valuable to the newspaper."

Veteran Minneapolis attorney Marshall Tanick recalled Zack as a journalist who "set the template for legal affairs reporting in this state."

"She was highly regarded and respected among lawyers, judges, and throughout the legal community," Tanick said. "She was … skillful at explaining sometimes arcane and complex legal issues in a way that was understandable to lay readers."

Retired Star Tribune reporter Peg Meier recalled Zack as a kind colleague who always "went the extra mile" on the job.

Zack also mentored young journalists and served as a volunteer union officer. She was reelected several times in the 1980s and 1990s by fellow employees who respected her commitment and expertise.

"She threw herself into representing her colleagues in the union," Meier said. "She kindly showed the ropes to new staff members. All [tasks] were done with her sweet personality evident."

In addition to her husband, Denis, Zack is survived by brothers Bruce Storhoff and Dan Storhoff and many nieces and nephews.

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144