Loss of former editor felt by local news world

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BRATTLEBORO — Linda DuCharme, a longtime editor at the Reformer who died Friday at the age of 83 after a long fight with Parkinson's disease, will be remembered for her kindness and her contribution to the local news industry.

"She was an absolute pleasure to work with — calm and professional, even during the chaotic times," said Randy Holhut, news editor and co-acting operations manager at The Commons, a weekly based in Brattleboro. "She was the person who kept things steady, a great leader who got the paper out every night, no matter what."

DuCharme, born in 1936 in West Hartford, Conn., was the daughter of two journalists. Her family moved to Stowe and later Hardwick in Vermont then went back to Connecticut.

Her foray into the industry began with proofreading for the Milford Citizen in Connecticut. She worked for the daily for 14 years and left as a managing editor.

DuCharme and her husband moved to Brookline, Vt., in 1985. She spent 16 years as an assistant managing editor for the Reformer.

"I don't think there is any other paper in New England has the diversity of letters that we do. If you want to know what is going on, read the letters," DuCharme told the Reformer in an article about her retirement published in November 2001. "My favorite quote is, 'They love us, they hate us, they read us.'"

Staff, she added, worked "very hard to be fair and objective, and to run both sides of the story."

SOLID NEWS SENSE

DuCharme knew when to push a reporter and when they needed help, said Holhut, who worked with her at the Reformer between 1989 and 1995, covering sports at the time. He called her news sense "solid."

DuCharme also was known for being smart. In 1972, she lasted five nights on the television quiz show "Jeopardy."

"It was a nightly tradition that she took her supper break watching the NBC Nightly News and then Jeopardy, and she could answer the questions without breaking a sweat," Holhut said. "That intelligence served her well as the night editor."

DuCharme recalled those breaks in an article.

"My co-workers and I would yell out the answers while gulping down our sandwiches in the back room," she wrote on her website lduchar.me.

Josephine Howard, who worked in different editor positions at the paper, described DuCharme as "very competent" and someone who everyone got along with.

"She was a really nice person and she did her job well," said Howard. "And we had a lot of fun while we were doing it. She was a very fun person."

It's DuCharme and her husband Bob's "beautiful marriage" that Holhut said he'll remember most of all. He said the couple "truly loved each other, raised a great family, and had a life so wonderful, we jokingly called it 'the DuCharmed Life.'"

"It was so incredibly cruel that a woman so talented, so warm and loving, so great to work with and be around, had her marvelous brain ravaged by Parkinson's disease," Holhut said. "She did not deserve that fate."

DuCharme and Bob were married for 61 years. She also is survived by four children, six grandchildren, three brothers and one sister.

Holhut recalled "a lot of great people" being brought together in the Reformer newsroom by former editor Norm Runnion, who died in 2015.

"I consider myself lucky that I was there among them," he said. "And it sucks that Linda is gone, just like it sucks to have lost Pat Smith to cancer — losing two great Reformer women that I learned a lot from and that I miss every day."

Smith, who died in October, worked for the Reformer from 1969 to 2015 with the exception of a five-year period she spent as a stay-at-home mother. Her last title at the paper was news clerk.

Cicely Eastman, who retired from the Reformer in December 2018 as arts and entertainment editor, described DuCharme and her husband Bob as two of the nicest people she's ever known. Bob was an advertising representative for the paper.

NEWBIES

Eastman recalled starting in the composing room or the ad department in fall 1984 and DuCharme coming on as an editor about six months later.

"She was very professional, always very respectful — just a very nice person," Eastman said. "She'd talk about how she met her husband and how they left everything in Connecticut to come up here. They felt very fortunate; as newbies, they had gotten a really good house on a good road."

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In a Vermont Public Radio commentary about attending annual Town Meeting titled "Robert's Other Rules," DuCharme said she grew up in the Northeast Kingdom and her husband was "from south of here."

"I informed him he may not speak at Town Meeting at all for at least three years then when he did, he could only say positive things like, 'Let's hear a round of applause for Archie who did such a fine job keeping our roads clear this winter,'" she continued. "I told him that if nobody rolls his eyes or lets out an exasperated groan, he may offer another very short opinion but no more than two the first time."

She added, "Don't be a flatlander. Avoid showing support for issues that indicate change of any kind."

DuCharme also had a column in the now-defunct weekly Original Vermont Observer while Eastman was managing it.

"She could write about just about anything there is to write about," Eastman said.

Tim McQuiston, editor at Vermont Business Magazine, called DuCharme his "all-time favorite coworker." He was night editor at the Reformer in the late 1990s.

"She's about 20 years older than I am, but we were actually close," he said, as they would play Scrabble before work, go cross-country skiing or see art shows together.

McQuiston recalled sometimes sneaking Rolling Rock beers into the office on Fridays.

"She would always say the same thing," he said, "'This tastes so good.'"

He said there was a lot of pressure to meet deadlines and DuCharme could be "pretty rough" on him.

"Linda had a little bit of attitude," he said, adding that she was younger than Runnion but they were from the same generation. "They would get into it sometimes. Of course, Norm had a temper and a pretty foul mouth — as I'm sure you know the legend is — and they'd get into it."

The DuCharme family was known to throw fun parties at their home in Brookline.

"Everyone knew it was going to be a great time," McQuiston said.

In the newspaper industry, he said, a lot is based on experience, intuition and intelligence, "and she had a lot of those things."

DuCharme did not appreciate being labelled "the office mom," said McQuiston.

HUMOR AND WARMTH

"She cared about all of us and had a way of communicating her genuine interest in all of our lives with her words and deeds," Mark Tarnacki, staff writer in marketing and communications for Saint Michael's College, said in an email. He worked as wire editor and a reporter at the Reformer during the mid-1980s and mid-1990s.

DuCharme "was comfortable in her own skin and saw to it that others were too in her presence, always exhibiting great wit and a sense of humor, but also mature understanding of life's more serious side when a situation called for that," Tarnacki said, adding that DuCharme's writing displayed "her classy, humane and perceptive warmth ... I could not imagine a person I would rather have spent my time working alongside and learning from, and I am deeply grateful to have known and worked alongside such a remarkable and excellent woman and fellow journalist."

Biz Dana, who helped lay out pages at the Reformer, considered her former coworker to be "not only a prolific writer, editor and proofreader" but "a mentor, a talent scout and a fierce humorist."

"Linda's warmth was noticeable everywhere in the newsroom," Dana said in an email. "She always included the employees in advertising, the flyer stuffers, office staff and the printers in her conversations and stories. She could spot a good writer from a mile away — she was patient with those who were cutting their teeth and encouraging to the more seasoned writers and reporters."

DuCharme, Dana added, "was an eagle eye for spotting the truly egregious typos, saving the Reformer from embarrassment."

Dana said DuCharme wrote her letters of recommendations for college and jobs, and always encouraged her to dig deeper in order to bring forth her best effort

"When I think of Linda I am reminded of the Girl Scout round I sang in growing up in Brattleboro ... 'Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold,'" she said. "Linda was pure gold."

Greg Worden, owner of Vermont Artisan Designs, will remember DuCharme as a "good editor" and "good friend" with "a wicked sense of humor." He worked at the Reformer in positions including reporter and assistant editor from 1972 to 1987.

"It's a pretty sad loss for all of us," he said. "It's just one of those things where the ranks are diminishing."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.


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