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Editor’s NotebookEditor's Notebook: Another 'what might have been' episode

Editor’s Notebook: Another ‘what might have been’ episode

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As the Arlington County Board convenes for its first working session of the new year, its members may want to reflect that it was 19 Januaries ago that Charles Monroe died after suffering a seizure while chairing his first board meeting.

It was a major loss for the community, and a major “what might have been” moment, as Monroe was universally seen as talented, likeable and community-engaged, with an open future ahead of him.

(In the days leading up to that fateful meeting, Monroe had left me a voice-mail that, given the craziness of my work life at the time — I was editing the Journal Newspapers and trying to deal with that chaos in addition to my Sun Gazette work — I figured I could put off responding and follow up with him during a break in the Saturday board meeting. That never came to pass.)

Yours truly was in the back of the board room in the early hours of that meeting, head down reading some board report, when there was a gasp from the dais, which turned out to be clerk to the board Toni Copeland, responding as Monroe collapsed at his seat. Paramedics were called, but the board chair later was pronounced dead at Virginia Hospital. In all likelihood, he had died within seconds of his collapse. He was just 46.

Nineteen years? Amazing the time has come and gone. But it always does.

In a sidebar to that story, sometime around that era I happened to be one of the three judges at the inaugural “Dancing with the Arlington Stars” put on as a fund-raiser by a local group.

(Why they picked me, I have no idea, except I suppose they wanted somebody snide. I proved to be too tame, although I was invited back to the second and final event a year later to judge once more.)

Seated next to me on the judges’ table was Charles Monroe’s mom, Eleanor, who herself had served on the Arlington School Board. We had a great (grrrrrrrreat!) time at that event, whispering comments that fortunately never reached outside ears 🙂

KINDA PUTS A PHONED-IN COMPLAINT FROM A SUBSCRIBER IN PERSPECTIVE: Those on the circulation staff are the unsung heroes of the newspaper biz; getting all those papers where they need to go is a remarkable feat of planning and execution.

But sometimes, it pales in comparison to other responsibilities these folks have.

Consider, for instance, Frank Clarke, the circulation manager for the Northern Virginia Sun back in the 1940s.

Where was Frank this week in 1945? According to a report in the paper, he was serving as a radioman as part of an Allied bombing crew, helping in this case to deliver not newspapers but crippling blows to the Nazi war effort from the skies above Germany. He recently completed his 27th mission, the paper reported.

(Earlier in the war, the rule was if you survived 25 missions, you were done with the duty; by 1945, the Germans’ ability to knock down our aircraft was much more limited, but it was still a very dangerous ride, every single time.)

Not sure what became of Mr. Clarke after the war; some day, if retirement ever comes, I’m going to look into it. Or maybe a local history buff can beat me to the punch; that’d be fine.

  • Scott McCaffrey
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