It isn’t often that you get to meet someone who has been in the same room with Dwight D. Eisenhower and Michael Jordan (not at the same time, of course). Or someone who cares so much about her storytelling that she wants every detail to be exactly right. And you rarely get to work with someone who has made 95 trips around the sun, yet still delivers colorful, clear-eyed, wry stories that have delighted Saturday Evening Post readers for the last several years.
Val Lauder, who passed away yesterday at age 95, was all of these things, and I was the editor at the Post who was lucky enough to work with her. While most of us can barely remember what we had for breakfast, Val was able to recall amazing details from her childhood at her grandparents’ lake house near Ann Arbor and her early career as a copy girl for the Chicago Daily News. She perfectly captured Gen. Eisenhower’s agony over his decision to proceed with D-Day and brought to life the excitement when the news of the Japanese surrender came through on the Teletype machine. There weren’t many people left who could tell stories from those eras, and Val did it with style. It was always a treat to arrive to work in the morning and find one of her articles had plopped into my inbox. I knew I had some entertaining reading ahead of me. We really enjoyed working together, and I will miss not only her writing, but her collegiality, her graciousness, and her gentle insistence that I make just one more change.
Val, wherever you are, I’m a little envious of those who are with you, because they are going to hear some damn good stories.
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Thanks from me as well, Jen. I know I’m in shock with Val’s passing, having gotten to know her through her personal essays, so it has to me especially tough for you. It’s easy for some people to say ‘well, she was 95 after all’. And while yes, that as a fact was true, she totally defied her age with a razor sharp memory that would put most people 35 or even 25 to shame.
I loved reading the details she put into all of her stories; how she took you, the reader back in time with her. Her getting that job as a copy girl during World War II. Being female she had to be even better than her male counterparts. I loved reading about the glamour of train travel, feeling like I was there along with her. We got to read how she overcame polio, her parents; particularly her Dad. Her respect for our soldiers, insights into the difficult decisions that confronted Eisenhower with D-Day, and more.
We got to meet Michael Jordan through her, and experience the loss of her dog, Winston. I hope my comments helped her feel better. A strong and classy lady, she was taken too soon. I figured at least 100, but God called her now instead for reasons we don’t know. I know she’s with God and all her loved ones, including Winston and her previous beloved dogs. Rest in peace Ms. Lauder. We love you, and you’ll be missed here. Very much.
Thank you so much for your tribute to Val Lauder!
We will pass your kind words along to friends and print them up for others to read. We are so pleased that you were able to engage her. Writing those articles for you and the Post was the highlight of her last few months. Thank you!