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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