ELLSWORTH — The Ellsworth American’s Managing Editor Stephen Fay, who has helmed the newspaper for 23 years, is retiring May 31.
He is being replaced by former New Media Editor Cyndi Wood.
Fay will be missed by his colleagues past and present as well as the community at large.
Former Hancock County Sheriff Bill Clark said he will always remember Fay’s help after Clark missed a deadline to place a memorial ad for his late daughter.
“My daughter died 29 years ago,” Clark said. “Every year I put a memorial in the paper on her birthday.”
“Two years ago I missed the deadline,” Clark said. “I really felt bad about that. I didn’t want to take advantage of our friendship. But, I took a chance and called Stephen to see if he could help me. He said, ‘Of course, from one father to another.’ I’ll always remember that.”
Despite the incessant demands of a newspaper career, Fay served on the board of the James Russell Wiggins Down East Family YMCA for 20 years.
Peter Farragher, the Y’s chief executive officer, said he’ll never forget Fay’s help — and his singing ability — when the Y was trying to develop its summer camp on Webb Pond in Eastbrook.
“I’ll never forget that at an executive committee meeting he was so passionate about summer camp that he started singing camp songs,” Farragher said.
There were some “serious guys” on that committee, Farragher recalled. But, that didn’t matter to Fay.
“It was the coolest thing — his singing,” Farragher said. “His leadership and passion about camp was a very important piece of the puzzle.”
Fay is respected in the journalism community as well.
“He is a great writer with a flair for a comedic touch that I always envied, and he has been a careful and thoughtful editor,” said Hugh Bowden, the American’s former executive editor.
“As colleagues, we could always disagree — though it didn’t happen often — without being disagreeable toward each other,” Bowden said. “While I deplored the inevitable move toward greater use of social media by the newspaper, Stephen embraced the challenge and helped make it work for the EA and its readers.
“But what I admire most of all about Stephen is how much he cares — for the newspaper, for the people with whom he has worked, and for the greater community at large,” Bowden said.
Former Publisher Alan Baker said, “Stephen’s leadership of the news team at The American, and his talents as a writer and editor, have resulted in a plethora of awards and recognitions, nationally, in New England and in Maine.”
“His witty and clever tightwad’s guide to cheap wine, “Cheers,” was an American food pages weekly delight for 10 years,” Baker said. “The column was a slam-dunk winner in any newspaper humor contest and republished in two memorable collections.”
Erik Bruun of Great Barrington, Mass., worked for Fay at the Berkshire Eagle in the early ’90s.
Fay showed him the ropes on Bruun’s first day.
“He observed — the more you’re in the office, you’re not doing the work,” Bruun said. “It’s about being out there and knowing the community and talking to the people.”
Letitia Baldwin, The American’s arts and leisure editor, values Fay’s ability to work with the public.
“As a newspaper editor, one of Stephen’s invaluable traits is his regard for the public,” Baldwin said. “He always takes time, listens to and treats their concern with respect.
“He sets a great example for new reporters learning how to professionally handle themselves in small communities and the greater world,” Baldwin said.
Beth Fendl, who previously owned The Riverside Café on Main Street and now manages Finn’s Irish Pub, said she remembers Fay interviewing her then school-age son for an article.
“He so gently encouraged me to step back and let my son do the talking,” Fendl said. “He did that without offending me, without even saying a word. He just kindly looked at me with that wry smile and relayed the message, ‘OK, Mom, your boy is growing up and he can do this on his own. Let him.’ That was so helpful to me and to my son.”
Since March, Fay has been mentoring a local writer who is in a recovery program for substance abuse addiction.
“Stephen looked beyond the stigma I have from being labeled an addict, and saw enough potential to give me an opportunity,” said Barbara Norrie of Ellsworth. “I intend to soak up his wisdom and continue to pursue this goal that I’ve revived from long ago while balancing motherhood and recovery.”
“I’m proud of myself for the first time in a long time and it’s all because of some good people introducing me to a great man, who was willing to roll the dice on me,” Norrie said.
Once Fay retires, he intends to stay busy.
The Berkeley, Calif., native and his wife, Martha Nordstrom, are moving to Holyoke, Mass., this summer.
“We are going to relocate to western Mass., that’s where I had my first job with the Berkshire Eagle in 1974,” Fay said. “Martha’s sister is in Amherst. My younger sister is in Providence. We want to be closer to family.”