You might remember the columns Times Herald-Record Executive Editor Barry Lewis wrote about his, shall we say, diminutive mother, who he once described as “a shrinking red head in fuzzy white slippers who used language that would make a sailor blush.”
Like the ones about her unique culinary skills, which included serving “ketchup instead of spaghetti sauce on pasta because it was one less pot to wash and she didn’t need to be bothered.”
You also might remember Barry’s columns about his Pomeranian pooch Boo Boo, who amazingly possessed some of the same qualities as Barry’s mom — such as mastering “the art of Jewish guilt.” Take the time Barry had to bench the 15-year-old dog from their daily 4-mile walk because of old age. When Boo Boo realized her walking days were over, her brown eyes grew heavy, in a very familiar way, Barry wrote. Her coat, which had been looking more grayish than golden, also had a reddish tint — the kind of “reddish-purple tint” Barry hadn’t seen since, well, the last time someone else made Barry feel this guilty.
“Could it be,” Barry wondered, “Roz Lewis had taken over Boo Boo’s soul?”
And if you know anything about Barry, you know that he bleeds Borscht Belt blood (even though he hates it when publications like the New York Times use the term “Borscht Belt” in virtually every story about the Catskills.)
Who can forget his tales of waiting tables at the Shady Nook resort in Loch Sheldrake, where he once served so many prunes he “cleared out the digestive tracks of my 40 guests, their children and their children’s children?”
But you can't possibly know all I learned about Barry’s dedication, passion and skill as a journalist during the nearly two decades he was my editor for everything from Sullivan County daily stories to Sunday in-depth pieces.
When it seemed every Indian tribe in the world wanted a Sullivan casino, and the latest news always seemed to break on a Friday evening, Barry would stay in our Monticello bureau office for hours, making sure we made one more call and checked one more source to nail down the complex story.
When I would write a lead sentence that stretched from the Catskills to the Hudson and back, Barry would hone it until it conveyed the news in the clearest, most concise fashion.
Whether it was a story about the Hasidic development in Bloomingburg, that never-ending quest for that Catskills casino or the disturbing rise of homelessness and hunger of too many children and adults, Barry and I would sit in his office with the most meticulous files and sort through the facts until we zeroed in on a focus that would be clear to you and, when necessary, the officials who needed to be held accountable.
Even though Barry is a veteran news guy, he embraced the latest ways to deliver the news as fast as possible — online, through video or Twitter. I can still hear him urging this old school reporter to instantly “post” the breaking news about everything from a damaging Sullivan County flood to the arrest of Monticello’s former mayor.
Today, when the newspaper industry is shrinking and vital staff is being cut, Barry is as devoted and diligent as ever, figuring out new ways to give you as much news as fast and thoroughly as possible — whether it's for a school board election night when dozens are up for election in some 34 districts or an accident on Route 17.
Barry Lewis is leaving the Record next week for a change in career. I — and more importantly, you — will miss him.