A Literary Legend

How do you encapsulate an entire life, in a column? It was something Ed Lowe did every single week, for years. Somehow, amidst the details, the quotes, the anecdotes – at times touching, at times humorous – he managed to boil it all down to the essence of the person. He was a master storyteller, in a class all his own.

No one could possibly do his story justice.

I grew up reading Ed Lowe’s column in Newsday, and then later in the Long Island Press, never imaging that – one day – we would be employed by the same newspaper and that I would essentially become his editor… well, as much as anyone can edit a master storyteller.

Thinking back, I recall the first time I ever met Ed, at a benefit held in the wake of 9/11. I believe he was the keynote speaker that night, and I was beyond thrilled to meet the man in person, even if it was only a few words exchanged between us.

I had corresponded with him via e-mail only a few months earlier, sending him an essay I had written for college, recounting my high school senior prom at Windows on the World and thinking that perhaps he would like to use the story in a future column. I never imagined I would receive a reply.

And yet, on September 28th, 2001, I found this in my inbox… “I just returned from a long-planned week’s vacation, the first week off since 1996. I can’t begin to tell you how difficult was the decision to go or not go. Anyway, your essay about the Twin Towers was among my 88 e-mails, and I appreciated it, and I will find a way to get back to it, and to you, and thanks for forwarding it to me.”  - edlowe

He never did get back to it, specifically, but it didn’t really matter. Just the acknowledgement was enough. He read it. He liked it. He took the time out to reply to it. Maybe I did have a future in this field after all. What a thrill.

Fast-forward about four years, and I found myself at Neighbor Newspapers, sharing editorial space with the one-and-only Ed Lowe. Each week, I would read his column religiously, studying it almost, wondering how he managed to come up with so many stories, how he spoke to strangers and friends with the same ease, making compelling reading out of everyday life and everyday people. That is truly a gift.

Eventually, I came to be Ed’s official “contact” at Neighbor Newspapers, receiving his columns each week and corresponding either by phone or e-mail on a regular basis. Occasionally, I would offer my own feedback to him in the case of particularly hilarious or touching story; not that he needed it from the likes of a “newbie” such as myself, but more because I wanted him to know how much he had inspired me.

After one such “fan letter,” I received the following assessment of my own work: “…I do read your stuff. It’s very conversational and easy, like a voice on the phone.” Short, sweet and, for me, the ultimate compliment. Ed Lowe was someone who wrote much like he spoke, drawing you in to his own conversations, even those he engaged in with himself. Down-to-earth, no airs… just the storyteller and his captivated audience.

Upon Ed’s passing last week, I found myself reading scores of comments from adoring fans, most of whom had never had the good fortune to meet the man behind the golden pen. What a wonderful legacy he leaves behind. So many lives touched. I consider myself fortunate to have been one of them.

“See you all of a sudden.”

 

{Published: January 26th, 2011}

 

Jamie Lynn RyanComment