You never met Helen Duerr, but you’ve held her work in your hands. She was production director for Lawn & Landscape and the dozens of other titles that GIE Media publishes.
That means she made sure all the stories that we wrote and designed, and all the ads our sales team sold, made it safely down to the printing press in Kentucky in the right order, and then got mailed out to our thousands of subscribers all over the country.
Beyond that, Helen was a great editor. Each month, we’d give her a stack of printouts for her to send to the press, and go back to our desks feeling pretty proud of ourselves. Then, about five minutes later, she would bring down one of those pages (usually my column) and point out that I’d missed a misspelled word, or I’d written something that didn’t make sense.
She was curious about all our markets (she did this with the other editors, too) and cared enough about each magazine to give it one more close read.
Helen had worked for GIE for 28 years, and was one of the first people hired into the company. Since she started in 1987, GIE has moved offices, embraced digital publishing and grown to more than 100 employees. On a masthead that has shifted greatly in my decade at this company, Helen was a constant.
Helen died last month. She was 56. She and her husband, Mick, were hit by a car going the wrong way on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
We write a lot about profits and growth and ambition and all that. But this month, I want to instead recommend that you stop for just a minute and tell those who are important to you that you care about them.
At the close of the year, we step back and think about the past 12 months, and about what has changed. We think about the happy times, and think also about those we’ve lost.
This life can be unfair. It can be short. It can be confusing. The good ones seem to be taken from us far too soon.
On a masthead that has shifted greatly in my decade at this company, Helen was a constant.
I won’t pretend to say that I understand any of it. I don’t have any insight into why these things happen. That’s far beyond my pay grade. But I know that we’re not here long – some of us shorter than others. And I also know it’s important to spend that time helping one another, and letting those who are important to us know.
Helen, we’ll miss you.
– Chuck Bowen