Archive for Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Well wishes for paper’s ‘Spencer Tracy’

February 20, 2008

When I was in high school, Doris Stith was my English teacher. She was a capable woman, with an eye for detail; most papers I wrote were returned bleeding red circles of correction. I disliked those red circles; resisted her suggestions.

When I came home and Jackie Jones, editor of the local paper, approached me about writing a column, I told her I didn't think it would work. It was a Doris Stith thing; I knew she was going to want to correct my writing. If anything, Jackie Jones, who had previously served as editor of an East Coast publication, was persistent. We gave it a try.

I have to say, my columns in those days were improved by her editorial acumen. That, by the way, did not stop Doris Stith from reading and editing my columns through the years.

During Jackie Jones' tenure, Doris Stith's corrections were sparse; after her tenure, her comments became more frequent - sometimes I even got a phone call.

She always began with: "you were one of my best students": I knew something was coming. Like: "what were you thinking?" Or "let me make a suggestion." She was a Katharine Hepburn sort of figure in my life. Smart; well educated, opinionated, talented; steel fist in a kid glove. I respected and admired her; miss her still.

I was thinking about her recently when I learned that my current editor was about to retire. If Doris Stith was a Katharine Hepburn figure, John Beal is Spencer Tracy.

I remember my first column for him - a piece on the Agricultural Hall of Fame - there was a question about some detail. That was his first and one of the few calls he made.

His eye for detail, his acumen for the "right word" is evident; his manner of correction is kind but firm. There is no doubt he knows his business; does it well. I have had the good fortune of getting the other side of John Beal as well.

I have to say that I like him. He is a Spencer Tracy sort of guy; man of few words, within whom feelings run deep. If he were a trout stream, I would like to stand in those waters and cast my line over the ripples, landing in a circle of sunlight and let it drop easily into one of those deep, cold pools.

What I would find there would please me. I would cut my catch loose, return it to the stream so another fisherman might come along and have a similar experience. I am going to miss John as my editor; I hope to retain him and his wife, Linda, as friends. She is a nurse, as I was in my early days; we are kindred spirits as nurses often are. Her advice, like his, has been sound and reliable.

I wish them well.

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