It was straight out of the movies. We could hear James Earl Jones intoning: If you throw a party, they will come.
The occasion was the retirement of Fern Turkowitz, the administrator of the Sports Department, after a mere 47 years at the Times.
She has been compared to Derek Jeter and Radar in M*A*S*H and others who made it happen, whatever it was.
The Sports Department set up a toast at 5 PM on Friday, Fern’s last day at work. People said they have never seen a crowd like this -- the corn fields opening up, the old players emerging from history.
I won’t try to re-produce the praise for Fern. Maybe it stays in house. Maybe it’s out there in the social media. How would I know?
What touched me were the faces filing through the corn field – starting with current masthead names like Sulzberger and Baquet and Chira and maybe others I did not spot. That was gracious of them, indicating the respect for Fern throughout the building. Dozens and dozens of current Times employees were there, too numerous to mention.
Then there were the old-timers, who keep in touch, but never so many in one place, some visiting the “new building” for the first time since the Times moved from 43rd St. to Eighth Avenue in 2007.
Just off the top of my addled head, what a thrill to see Alex Yannis, who covered World Cups, and Barbara Lloyd, who wrote about sailing, Gerry Eskenazi. Dave Anderson. Lawrie Mifflin, who wrote and was a deputy sports editor. Susan Adams, one of the great copy editors. Ray Corio, ditto. Neil Amdur. Bob Lipsyte. Arthur Pincus. Paul Winfield, another favorite editor. And Paul Belinkie, who could dunk a basketball, he said. I know I’m forgetting some.
Then there were younger people who moved on to other jobs for good reasons but remain part of the team, and always will. Malcolm Moran. Judy Battista. Greg Bishop. Pete Thamel. Howard Beck. Joe Sexton. They just came back. It seemed so natural, so right.
Some came in from Seattle or Indiana or Boston or the East Side, for goodness’ sakes. Waves of all-star teams. All of us in our time had pestered Fern for credentials, or submitted sloppy expense statements, or lost rental cars, or lost ourselves. Fern straightened it out, part Mother Teresa, part Nurse Ratched, but always indispensable to eight sports editors from Jim Roach to Jason Stallman.
The party continued down the street. May still be going on.
These are “interesting times” for print journalism. I came away from this party for our colleague, our friend Fern Turkowitz, feeling the core pride in ourselves, in each other, and mostly in The New York Times. We have lived by the credo: If we print it, "they" will read it.
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Two things I should add:
Terri-Ann Glynn did a great job putting the party together.
And some of the usual suspects in the office gave terrific speeches and put together a 7-page journal about Fern, which Melissa notes in her nice comment below. I think the journal fits into the clubhouse slogan of "what you see here, stays here," but it reflected Fern's impact on all of us. GV
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.