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Newsday columnist Ed Lowe passed away in 2011 from liver cancer. There was no greater read between the pages of Newsday than a new column by Ed Lowe. He told stories about real Long Islanders that would otherwise never be told. The stories were simple tales of sometimes mundane events in their lives, but his gift was how he told those stories using his voice.
Although he wrote stories about average (and extraordinary) Long Islanders for more than 30 years, many other columns were about himself and his life experiences. That included his struggles with a stroke and then cancer, right up until he passed away too soon at 64.
Ed was already an established Newsday columnist, appearing three times a week when I met him in 1979 at the last Christmas party for Newsday in their Garden City office. Within the next few weeks, Newsday would be moving their operations into their shiny new, state-of-the-art office and production complex in Melville.
In the spring of 1979, my college friend Tony Madjeczyk got me an interview for a part-time editorial assistant position at Newsday, where he was also working part-time. This was a glorified gopher job, or what they used to call copy boy. We were responsible for moving the typed stories from the reporters to the editors for review. However, once we got to the new building, everything would be electronic. That’s where I got my start in computers.
At the Christmas party, I was responsible for setting up the food (pizza) and drinks on the conference room tables, making sure to keep soda and wine chilled.
That’s where I met Ed.
He was wearing his trademark brown blazer with a white button-down shirt opened at the collar. Leaning against the door frame with a paper plate and a slice of pizza, he waived to me and said hello. I was standing behind the table with the wine and soda, acting as a bartender.
“What kind of beer ya got?” he asked with a slight smile on his face. Of course, being a fellow beer drinker, I laughed and put my palms up in the air. “There ain’t no beer,” I told him, asking, “How can you have a Christmas party without beer?”
“You’re absolutely right,” he said with a big grin on his face. “Wanna make a beer run with me?”
The words couldn’t come out of my mouth faster. “You bet!”
We grabbed our coats and jumped into my 1975 Chevy Nova, which had papers and debris all over the back seat. “You live in this car?” he said with a laugh. “Then again, you should see my car!”
Heading out to the nearest 7-11, we talked about our favorite beers (his was Budweiser) and what it was like to be a recent college graduate. I told him about my work with the New York Tech paper as a sports columnist. I also wrote a column with my friends called “Brewing Out,” under the pseudonym of “Team F.U.B.A.R.” It was all about the Long Island bar scene. He laughed long and hard about that.
When we returned with a few six-packs of Budweiser, he instructed me to keep them hidden under the table for him and another writer. But, of course, I could also indulge whenever I wanted, as long as I save the last one for him. So we quietly clinked our bottles and toasted our futures before covertly pouring the beer into paper cups.
After moving to Melville, I never ran into him again, and by April of 1980, I had left Newsday for my first real job. Now that I had talked to him and became beer-buddies, every time I read one of his columns (which was often), I could now read them in his voice.
I’d like to think there is a lot of Ed Lowe’s voice in my columns. I hope you think so too.