I would imagine it was some lame attempt to demonstrate how she had excelled in all areas of her life and/or make reference to the fact she had challenged some supposed stereotype that women who made their mark in the 60s and 70s did so by giving up their traditional roles of wife and mother.
All of which might have been interesting things to say in an obituary of a trailblazing female rocket scientist. But there are simply no circumstances where the obituary of a male rocket scientist started off with 'he made an excellent lamb curry and always took the bins out on Fridays'.
That's kind of a weird one, for a normal human being, I kind of think the obits are for the family, and that's the sort of stuff that is important. However yeah, if you're worthy of being in the New York Times, maybe mention why?