Art McLean passed away in May, 2013 in his Sunderland home. He had a long, happy career at the Valley Advocate and in later life he had difficulty getting around after a broken leg hobbled him and kept him from his beloved walks in the woods.
He was 66 years old, and when many of my former Advocate co-workers heard the news of his passing, we were all sad. It brought back many memories of times we had shared working with him at the paper.
On Sunday night, many of his former co-workers from the Valley Advocate gathered at Dave and Janis Sokol’s Hadley home to remember him. Most of us had not seen each other for more than 30 years and we’ve scattered around and away from the Valley.
Leah Sullivan, a former Advocate receptionist, shared a memory of Art in an email from Japan. “Art gave people the time of day. He would take time to listen, respond, and appreciate. He knew how to practice the art of appreciation of others. He would always take notice of people…how many people do we know who gave people the time of day like Art did?”
Nancy Edelstein shared some memories written by one of her daughters that touched on the man’s intrinsic goodness. Art had shown great concern and tenderness when her daughter faced cancer. She wrote, “People who loved as fully as Art did will always live on, through the lives they have touched.”
David Sokol remembered Art’s famous gigantic moon pies, that he’d pass around when we would gather at his home to watch 1970s episodes of Saturday Night Live on his Sony Betamax. He was the first person we ever knew who had one, and Jude Madden pointed out, he was also the first to have a television remote control. We all would get together on our weekends, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, since we worked Saturday and Sunday in production.
Before the Advocate, Art worked as a proofreader at the Wall Street Journal in Chicopee. Sokol recalled how Art used to say ‘when I was at the Journal, we did it this way,’ with pride. Kitty Axelson, a former Advocate editor, recalled Art through some thank you cards he sent her. He used to reach out often like this to many of us, sharing kind thank you’s.
“He was so appreciative,” Axelson recalled. “Running into you and Ali at Stop and Shop was the best that day!” Art exclaimed in his hand-made card. “I can’t imagine two people who deserve my holiday wishes more, and I hope the season is rich and wide for you.” I can hear Art’s voice in those words, which we all remember as a deep baritone, melliflous and pure, a radio man’s tenor.
The cards were hand made, and like Art, they came straight from his heart. Sadly, when one year Art broke his ankle, he never got it treated by a doctor, and the foot eventually swelled up and made it very hard for him to get around. Arthritis made walking even harder, I remember seeing him in the grocery store riding a handicapped cart.
You never regret showing up for a memorial, and this one was tender and full of old gauzy memories that made us feel old, but connected to each other through the memories of a warm and loving man, Art McLean.