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Sylvia Rector, 'tough editor' in Twin Cities who became beloved food critic in Detroit

Joe Kimball remembers it as a tense period in his career at the Star Tribune: The time when his paper squared off against the rival Pioneer Press with an aggression it had never shown before. Suddenly it wasn’t just the Minneapolis paper; it aspired to embrace the entire metro area.

A Star Tribune news bureau materialized in St. Paul, amply staffed and led by Sylvia Rector, a journalist who had been battle-tested in cities such as Dallas and Washington, where newspaper wars were the norm.

“We felt like troops landing on the beach,” said Kimball, now retired. “It was a landmark moment for the paper, and Sylvia was our field general.”


Rector, who joined the Detroit Free Press in 1992 and became well-known there as the newspaper’s food critic for 17 years, died of colon cancer on Dec. 20 at the age of 66.



Her husband, Charles Hill, a retired Associated Press bureau chief, described her as a “force of nature” as a journalist but also “a very sweet and kind person,” whose passing drew a torrent of appreciative memories from a culinary community that cherished her constructive approach in what can be a cutting line of work.

Rector grew up on a farm in Fancy Gap, Va., and attended a one-room schoolhouse. Scholarships paved her way to college.

She landed first at the Associated Press, then made a number of stops at different newspapers, including the Washington Star. She was state editor at the Dallas Times Herald, supervising reporters at the State Capitol, Austin and other big cities.

She arrived at the Star Tribune in 1984 as an assistant city editor. The move to St. Paul two years later to lead the newspaper’s new bureau there was a dramatic moment in the life of the family, Hill said. A top editor stopped by the house during her maternity leave to ask Rector to take it on, and “she came back early from that leave to do that job.” Editors asked the family to move to the east metro, he said, and they did.

She both applied pressure and felt it, Kimball said. Reporters dreaded the vision of a Pioneer Press laid out across Rector’s desk with “stories we missed, circled in bright orange. She was tough.” But he also remembered her occasionally retreating into her tiny office and shutting off the lights to gather herself.

“We later figured out she protected us [from impatient home-office criticism] more than we knew,” Kimball said.

Journalists who recalled Rector as a driven hard-news leader, demanding of herself and others, may have found it puzzling to see her fetch up as a food writer in Detroit. There was an explanation, her husband said: She was a mother seeking more family time. But she worked hard there and was a formidable presence in the field, said Brenna Houck, of the website Eater Detroit.

“She was definitely the scoop-maker most of the time, especially with big stories. She had made dining into her own space,” Houck said. “If I could ever beat out the Free Press, that was a fun day for me.”

Star Tribune Taste section editor Lee Dean said of Rector: “Food is a wonderful medium for storytelling, and Sylvia embraced it wholeheartedly, weaving tales of her childhood and more into reviews and reports from the kitchen, hers and others. ... Detroit readers were better fed because of her work.”

After Rector died, Houck described her online as “beloved.” In an interview, she said that Rector was never snarky or destructive, and plainly cared about leading readers to great food and bringing out the inner lives of the chefs who cooked it.

Attribution: David Peterson Star Tribune

John Sherwood, Columnist and Features Writer in Baltimore, Washington and Annapolis - December 7, 2016

John Sherwood, who for more than 50 years crafted profiles on an array of working-class characters and fringy eccentrics as a columnist and features writer in Baltimore, Washington and Annapolis, died Dec. 7. He was 84.

Sherwood spent almost 20 years at the former Washington Star newspaper capturing the lives and personalities of ordinary, captivating people in print — most of whom had no idea that they were anything but ordinary. With a Runyonesque flair he brought alive the likes of ferry-boat operators, tea room waitresses, pigeon racers, Linotype workers, tool-booth trolls, tug boat drivers, and hundreds more such ilk who likely never dreamed they were important enough to decorate the pages of a big city newspaper or a magazine — as well as individuals with delusions of grandeur. Better yet, he made the reader understand their importance, too.

Consider Vera — "who won't discuss her age," — the late owner of a Polynesian-style Tiki bar and restaurant on the Patuxent River in a Sherwood piece entitled "Empress of the White Sands."

Harry Bacas November 11, 1922 - November 17, 2016

Harry Bacas, a longtime Arlington, VA resident and World War II veteran, who rose from copy boy to become a top editor of the Washington Star, died on Thursday, November 17, 2016 in Santa Rosa, CA after a brief hospitalization at age 94. An Arlington, VA resident for over 50 years, Harry had moved to California in 2007.
Born on November 11, 1922, in Washington DC, the son of a Greek immigrant, Harry graduated from Eastern High School and served in World War II as part of the 461st anti-aircraft battalion that stormed Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. He fought in all five European campaigns and was awarded two Silver Stars.
On the GI bill, Harry received his BA in English from the University of Maryland, and studied English Literature at Stanford University. While teaching at Mills College in Oakland CA, he met his future wife, Eliza Goddard Weeks, a native Virginian. They returned to Washington, DC and were married in 1952. Eliza died in 2005.
Harry joined the Evening Star (later renamed the Washington Star) in 1951 as a copy boy and was soon promoted to reporter. As chairman of the Star unit of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, he led the first successful strike at the paper in 1958. He went on to serve as editor of the newspaper's Sunday Magazine, City Desk, and Portfolio sections. After the Star folded in 1981, he wrote for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Nation's Business magazine as a special assignment reporter until retiring in 1988. From the 1960's until the 1980's Harry was an avid auto-enthusiast, competing in road rallies and auto-crosses throughout the greater Washington DC area. His passion for bicycling led to numerous cycle tour vacations in the U.S, and Europe and he was a dedicated swimmer at the Washington-Lee Aquatics Center.

Attribution: Legacy.com
Obit: Harry


Edgar Henry Lichty Jr., 87, Composing Room Manager of The Washington Star,subsequently The Washington Times

Edgar Henry Lichty Jr., 87, of Huddleston, beloved husband, father and grandfather, died Friday, October 21, 2016 at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. He was born on Saturday, August 3, 1929 in Bethlehem, Pa., a son of the late Edgar Henry Lichty Sr. and Evelyn Mae Fehnel Lichty. Ed was a retired Composing Room Manager of The Washington Star,subsequently The Washington Times and was an active Masonic member.Ed was born and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where he started his printing career with his father. He married Evelyn Jean Blanchard on August 9, 1950, and was married to her for over 66 years. Soon after he was drafted to serve in the Korean War in the Army Corps of Engineers. Upon returning, he moved to the D.C. Metro area where he continued his printing career at the Government Printing Office. He would soon move to The Washington Star where he worked for 26 years. Ed helped start The Washington Times and worked there for 10 years before retiring to Smith Mountain Lake, where he played in the Kazim band for 22 years.He was a Master Mason at the District of Columbia, Grand Naval Lodge No. 4 attaining 32nd degree status, with memberships in Shriners International, Tall Cedars of Lebanon, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry and Almas Temple.

Attribution: The Roanoke Times