Beauty retail veteran Cheryl Mahoney, who was among a cohort credited with building the mass market cosmetics category, died on Jan. 21 after a six-year battle with cancer.

Mahoney devoted more than four decades to CVS, working her way up from merchandising and category management to vice president of beauty and personal care. In 2013, she transitioned to the role of vice president, retail merchandising — promotion and business development.

Cheryl Mahoney of CVS 

In a statement, CVS honored Mahoney’s groundbreaking legacy. “Cheryl Mahoney was part of the CVS family for 45  years and we are deeply saddened to learn of her passing. As CVS Pharmacy’s first female vice president, Cheryl paved the way for women leaders and demonstrated an unforgettable combination of strength, leadership and grace during her tenure. Cheryl led the beauty team at CVS for many years and made a lasting impact on the industry.”

Mahoney helped hammer out a strategy for CVS at a time when brands were looking to reach more consumers through the rapidly expanding mass market.

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“As a business partner, Cheryl was creative, challenging, demanding; we knew her to be tough but fair. As a friend, Cheryl had a beautiful smile, loved her family and [was] full of fun stories,” recalled Bill George, president and chief operating officer of Markwins North America.

Mahoney was tireless in her efforts to get more space for beauty in drugstores, a channel where pharmacy had long dominated. “Cheryl epitomized the best in beauty merchandising. She was passionate about the category and always thought about how to bring beauty to CVS shoppers in an exciting way,” said Wendy Liebmann, founder and chief executive officer of WSL Strategic Retail. “She was eager to partner with suppliers, to listen to their stories and determine how to best relate them at CVS. And she really loved the company she worked at all her life. It showed.”

Beyond her contributions to burnishing beauty’s image at CVS, Mahoney was supportive to colleagues, including other chains, in the mass business. “Even though we were retailing competitors, it did not undermine our relationship,” said Steve Lubin, a former beauty top executive at Walgreens, who added that despite her long illness Mahoney remained “positive and upbeat.”

She was involved in numerous cosmetics conferences held by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and shared her experience to help others in the business.

“Cheryl was a lovely person and a class act. The industry lost one of its shining stars and she will be greatly missed,” said Judy Wray, category manager for cosmetics and fragrance at Rite Aid.

She is survived by her husband Bob and family members. Her funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. on Jan. 26 in the Nardolillo Funeral Home and Crematory in Narragansett, R.I., followed by burial at Swan Point Cemetery, Providence. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Lung Force or the R.I. Community Food Bank in Providence, R.I.