Usually I take this space to tell you about the stories inside our current issue. The feature “25 People You Must Meet This Summer!”, for example, is one of the more ambitious photography projects we’ve ever undertaken. I hope you get the chance to meet these New Englanders in person, and to come away with […]
By Mel Allen
Jun 09 2008
Usually I take this space to tell you about the stories inside our current issue. The feature “25 People You Must Meet This Summer!”, for example, is one of the more ambitious photography projects we’ve ever undertaken. I hope you get the chance to meet these New Englanders in person, and to come away with an even greater appreciation for what makes New England special.
There’s so much more here, as well — from Ann Hood’s memoir about lives unfolding on a Rhode Island beach, to the briny joy of one family’s annual clambake — and usually I’d go on a bit about those stories.
But this isn’t a usual time at Yankee, because not long ago we lost John Pierce. He was here at his usual post — group publisher of The Old Farmer’s Almanac — after fighting off the flu bug that had made its way through our offices; then suddenly, with no warning, he was gone, felled by a stroke. He was 59 years old, and although he wasn’t currently on Yankee‘s editorial or production staff, he always left his imprint on our issues.
We met in 1977, just after he’d become Yankee‘s managing editor at the age of 29. A freelancer living in Maine, I came to Dublin in hopes of getting an assignment. I found a kindred spirit: a man who loved narrative writing and New England. He nurtured my writing and invited me to join Yankee‘s editorial staff in 1979. My whole adult life unfolded because of John and his belief in me.
He remained Yankee‘s managing editor for the next 15 years, before taking his talent to our sister publication, The Old Farmer’s Almanac. He wrote thousands of words for Yankee — captions, titles, cover lines — but none of them bore his name. At meetings we’d sit around a conference table, and John’s chair invariably would be back a foot or two. Just enough. We’d talk. Debate. Talk more. Then, finally, someone would say, “John, what do you think?” He’d then lay out what we should do and why — and that would be what we did.
John understood New England to its core. He grew up on a New Hampshire dairy farm. He once wrote about it this way: “Growing up a child of the land, it is the soil itself I miss the most. Soft, sandy loam that on hot summer days would puff between your toes like silk … It was a small farm on a soft rise along the bank of a gentle river in southern New Hampshire. It always looked like the kind of place that a family wanted to call home …”
You should have seen all the people who filled the church for John’s memorial service, each one holding memories of his kindness, good sense, and gentle mentoring. Whenever a new issue of Yankee arrived from the printer, I’d make sure to walk by his office to see what he thought. He loved good stories. He loved New England. I think he would have enjoyed this issue. We’ll miss you, John Pierce, we’ll miss you.