EDITORIAL: To Judy Grunberg

DEAR LANDLORD: This newspaper has been a tenant of yours for over eight years. You have been a friend for a decade longer than that and yet I still have a few things I don’t recall ever mentioning to you. Now, with your death, I’ll settle for sharing them with our readers, many of whom knew you well.

You talked a lot. The remarkable thing is that when you talked it was about real projects and real problems and real political or social or economic needs. What you said mattered and people wanted to know what you thought.

How is it that a human being could be in as many places doing as many things as you did? But there you were at the Blue Plate and Rewraps, and Chatham Area Business and Arts (CABA) and the Columbia Land Conservancy and WAMC boards and co-founding the Real Food co-op and helping save the Crandell Theatre and, in past years, not only sitting on the Columbia Memorial Hospital board, but funding the hospital’s Hospice Unit, to name just a few items on your schedule. You were the evidence that proved something in the planning stage was likely to become a reality, as in: Oh, Judy’s involved. That’s news.

In the midst of all the above, you’d be racing off to a dance workshop miles away until The Tent popped up at the orchard that frames the PS21 site in Chatham. Your tent hosted dance, music and theater in the open air with an occasional serenade from a passing CSX freight train. Now there’s the new permanent building. It’s scaled to the site and to audiences for both open-air and indoor performances. It’s a non-profit enterprise and it’s already a key part of the cultural infrastructure you helped nurture in this county.

It’s true that you did treat deadlines kind of like suggestions. At the newspaper we tried to compensate for that by setting early deadlines for your ads. But you sensed the ploy and managed to set the record for late submissions that just made it into print. I don’t know whether you took some pleasure from this game of deadline chicken. What is clear is that your PS21 ads were the most distinctive and clever advertising we have ever had.

That didn’t come as a surprise. Your artwork and use of typefaces and color graced other businesses and organizations around Chatham, creating a graphic thread that subtly connects the community.

But there’s also that show in Chatham of your ink-on-paper-sketches of scores of local people. You captured the spirit of your subjects and then shared them all. But your portrait of me was, well, not quite up to the others… although, strangely, no one in my family agrees with me. So it’s time now to admit that I cherish the drawing and the generosity with which it was made, exhibited and shared. I suspect others who were subjects of your sketches are are equally grateful.

What you accomplished went beyond culture. You made possible the opening of undeveloped land for recreation at a time when this county had very little public access to nature preserves. You supported progressive causes and candidates when those ideas and office seekers were less than welcome here.

You made it possible for this newspaper to rent a convenient and accessible office in Ghent with never a suggestion of interference in editorial or advertising decisions. That would not even be a topic worth mentioning if it weren’t for the current administration’s assault on the press.

Landlord—Judy–you were a great friend to me, my family and this newspaper. What’s more, you are an inspiration to the residents of this county as well as a benefactor. You set a new standard with the breadth of your commitment. It’s a commitment measured not only by what you gave in support of so many projects but by what you gave of yourself—your time, your attention, your effort and your love.

We will miss you.

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