This morning was the memorial service for Marshall Wentworth. The Unitarian Universalist Church in Kennebunk was pretty well packed on this frigid, overcast day; the man was well known and well loved.
My interactions with him had been fairly limited, in that we worked at the York County Coast Star together for several years, me as a reporter, Marshall as an ad rep. (To his eternal credit, he co-founded the deathless Tourist News while in his 20s.) Typically it was the people within a certain department that became tight, although that dynamic was gradually eroded the more personnel was discarded by management as the years went by (sort of like the classes finally mixing as the Titanic slipped under the surface). That being said, I always smiled passing by Marshall’s desk, for two reasons: 1. he was an affable guy, and 2. he always smiled at me. He was a gentleman in the literal sense of the word. He was 78.
Bob Wallack was only 63 when he died last week. Unfortunately, the man liked his cigarettes. He was editor at the Star for the 18 or so months as the 1900s came to a close, departing in December 1999. Though there but a brief spell, he made an impact. A true newspaperman, he was savvy enough to utilize the ad department as often as possible to help boost revenue, but was wise enough to know where the line was. When it was suggested that we reporters start taking turns writing restaurant reviews, he agreed it was a good idea…until he heard the caveat: they all had to be positive restaurant reviews. He called bullshit and the idea was shelved. We reporters loved him for that.
The man was a foodie (capping his time on earth as chef/owner of the Olde Post Office Café up in Mount Vernon, Maine), and, as editor, occasionally assigned himself a column wherein he could talk glazes and smoked ham. Speaking of smoked pig…a highlight of my journalism career was a trip to Texas in March 1999, when Bob and I accompanied a group of Kennebunkport residents to the opening of the Anchor to Windward exhibit at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, home of Texas A&M. The entire trip was enjoyable, yet attending a bona fide Texas barbecue in the middle of fucking nowhere with actual cowboys and mesquite had Bob and me smiling from ear to sauce-stained ear, as was hitting Austin’s top-rated rib joint. Mixing journalism and smoked meats gave Bob a palpable high, and it was fun to be with him.
He was a generous man. Example 1: When I was asked to serve as the journalist for a Rotaplast trip to Maracaibo, Venezuela in the late summer of ’99, I pitched a special section to Bob, who readily agreed, allowing me to go on an unforgettable 12-day journey where volunteer doctors and nurses fixed the cleft lips and palates of underprivileged kids. The special section made some money – not nearly as much as others – and he just as easily could have nixed the idea and made me take an unpaid leave. Thanks, Bob.
Example 2: When he left the Coast Star, he flipped tradition on its head and gave me a parting gift of one of his prized fountain pens, a Visconti Ponte Vecchio (red cellulose, for those taking notes). I’ve cleaned the medium nib this week. Time to write a letter or two.