A big loss for Westchester—and Greenburgh. Milt Hoffman, former editorial page editor for the Westchester Gannett newspapers and an active member of the Greenburgh community passed away Tuesday at the age of 86. Milt was a reporter, editor for 50 years before retiring. A copy of an editorial he wrote looking back on his 50 years in journalism follows. After his retirement he was a driving force behind the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee. He was very involved in Greenburgh civic activities –serving as a member of the Historic and Landmark Preservation Board. Milt also served on our Citizens Budget Oversight Commission, the Fire Consolidation Commission and most recently led the effort creating the Fairview Fire district monitoring committee. The committee organized a campaign last year that resulted in the election of an independent Fire Commissioner. Milt worked cooperatively with the new Fairview Fire Chief. He was smart, fair and passionate about the county and about the need for good government.
Milt Hoffman was a Westchester County giant who made a very positive impact on the county and town. He will be missed. The Town Board will start our meeting tonight with a moment of silence in honor and in memory of Milt Hoffman.
The funeral will be held at the Hebrew Institute of White Plains tomorrow (Thursday) at 10 am.
On the occasion of his retirement, Senior Editor Milt Hoffman wrote an editorial that appeared on Jan. 3, 2002, looking back on his 50 years in journalism. Here is his editorial:
Fifty years and three months ago, I went right from college into the County News Bureau of Westchester County Publishers in White Plains, grandparent organization to today's Journal News, and began what was to become a rewarding career in journalism.
Prior to that time, I had held only one other full-time job — as a sailor in the Navy. I never thought for a moment that this newspaper job would be my last full-time one.
There are a lot of other things I didn't know on Oct. 1, 1951, two days before Bobby Thompson was to hit his "shot heard around the world." I didn't know that the newspaper would become my second home, that readers would become my extended family, that so many people both in the profession and in the wider community would do so much to help me.
I also discovered that newspapering was much more than just recording events of the day. The greatest pleasure I found was to latch onto an issue needing attention, write to inform and mold public opinion, and then step back and watch those in authority deliver for the common good. For that to happen, one needs a good, caring newspaper, and I was very fortunate to work for an organization that was founded 78 years ago specifically to improve the communities we live in and the lives of the people within them. That mission continues.
But, as they say, all good things must coem to and end, and with the turn of the year I retired from The Journal News. It was a difficult decison to walk away from friends, both at the newspaper and in the community, but, as soem of you undoubtedly have discovered, there comes a time when the a voice inside your body shouts: "It's time!"
Obituary: Milt Hoffman, retired Journal News editor, dies at 86
On one hand, I feel a sense of incompleteness, walking away when so much more remains to be done — more affordable housing, eradication of homelessness, raising school standards, building our downtowns, planning for something to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge (hopefully a new bridge with a rail component), ensuring that we have an adequate supply of energy, unifying and simplifying our tangled court system, requiring more training for our teen drivers, and installing some common sense in our out-of-touch state government. Most of all, making our communities and nation secure.
I feel comfortable in leaving, however, because of the people who will remain, beginning with my publisher and friend, Gary Sherlock, who had the good sense more than three years ago to combine our 11 newspapers into one strong one, and also because the Editorial Board I served on for the past 11 years is in the very capable hands of Editorial Page Editor Ron Patafio, along with veteran associate editors Dave Hartley, Laurie Nikolski, Gayle Williams and letters editor Christine Mautone, all of whom are dear friends.
I am proud and excited, nevertheless, to look back at stories I have contributed to, including the completion not only of a new Tappan Zee Bridge, but also both the Cross-Westchester Expressway, interstates 684 and 84 and the Sprain Brook Parkway; an almost entirely rebuilt parkway system;the rescue of the bankrupt commuter railroads by a Rockefeller creation, the Metropolitan Tarnsportaion System; and the building of a real terminal at Westchester County Airport. I have to admit that three editorials and two personal columns wthe week prior to the public vote on the airport bond might have been a bit overkill, but it worked.
Then there was the court-ordered reapportionment that created the Westchester Board of Legislators to succeed the Board of Supervisors, something that has worked well for 32 years; the creation in Putnam County of a county executive form of government; making Westchester Coummunity College permanent and giving it a new home; and breaking the news that Westchester was to get a state university college at Purchase on the Chisholm Estate.
Of course, along the way there were many exciting political stories, including the local motorcades of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, the campaigns that elected Westchester County Executives James Hopkins, Edwin Michaelian, Alfred DelBello, Andrew O'Rourke and Andrew Spano, all good and productive officials. And, of course, the opportunties to cover the state Legislature during its productive years and to report on seven presidential nominating conventions.
There were the tragedies that I will never erase from my mind: the devastating fires at Stouffers in Harrison, Gulliver's in Port Chester, the Jewish Community Center in Yonkers, that together claimed 62 lives; the deaths of gallant firefighters and policemen, and specifically the huge manhunt for the killers of Patrolmen Charles Ackerly of Scarsdale in 1957 and Officer Gary Stymiloksi of the county police in 1985; the 1977 St. Valentine's Day standoff between police and a gunman at Neptune World Wide Moving Co. in New Rochelle that left six people dead, including Police Officer Fred Cowan; and the hostage situation in Eastchester in 1996 that led to the death of Officer Michael Frey. And, of course, the memorable airplane crashes. including the midair collsion of two airliners in 1965 that resulted in a crash-landing on a field in North Salem, resulting in the loss of four lives. They were personal, because they happended locally, but altogether they still don't have the impact of the disastrous events of Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.
Memories also of the many other incidents: Jean Harris' murder of Scarsdale Diet Doctor Herman Tarnower; the unsolved murders of labor leader John Acropolis in Yonkers and Maitland Brenhouse in Hastings-on-Hudosn; the "Mutt and Jeff" bank robberies of the 1950s; the execution at Sing Sing of the three killers of a Reader's Digest messenger; the capture of the Party Bandits; the pied piper hires to shoo away grackles in Mount Vernon (he didn't); the Rye man who hung clothing all over his yard to protest taxes; the margarine heir from Scarsdale who tried to give away a fortune he really didn't have; and the appearance in White Plains of actress Rita Hayworth to win back her children, Rebcca Wells and Princess Yasmin Khan, in a Children's Court case.
During my time as a reporter, county and state government reporter, columnist, metro editor, editorial page editor adn Editorial Board senior editor, I was guided by three principles. One of them is that our newspapers may be owned by a company, but the real proprietors are readers and their communities. Also, a reporter is creditable when he or she doesn't dwell on the mistakes that people make, but also reports on the good they might do. Third, if you can't look the subject of a story in the eye, you've not been fair.
In retirement, I hope to be able to spend more time for and with my devoted wife, Judy, and to catch up on the many things I felt were missing in my very busy life. We will remain in Westchester, and I hope, after a sabbatical, to stay involved in issues.
Famed writer H. L. Mencken once said: "I know of no human being who has a better time than an eager and energetic young reporter."
I'll leave it to others to gauge my eagerness and enegry, but I'll tell you. I had a great time because I was what I always wanted to be: a newspaper reporter.
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