Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bill Walsh Receives the 2017 ACES Glamann Award

Photo wife Jacqueline took on their fall trip to Ireland

My family and I are very grateful for all of the calls, messages, social-media posts and other forms of condolences about the death of our beloved Bill. Particularly touched by all of the personal stories from writers and editors who have been affected by his humor and way with words. (“Armed gunmen: They’re the worst kind.”) Am so proud to have called him my big brother, and that the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) awarded him its highest honor -- the Glamann Award -- in the week before his passing. Also touched that The Associated Press wrote an obituary about him, and that NPR's Linda Holmes penned a sweet piece about Bill's effortless talents ("Remembering Bill Walsh's Way With Words").

And lastly, for now, The Washington Post's internal memo about the passing of their colleague (and my brother) sure made me smile:

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz:

Copy editors are the unsung heroes of my profession, the folks who ensure that our work is as pristine and accurate as possible. Today, we lost one of the giants in the field. RIP Bill Walsh.
Here is the note that we shared with the staff:
Bill Walsh, our beloved friend, colleague, style maven and language guru, died this afternoon at the Halquist Center in Arlington. The cause was complications from bile-duct cancer. He had been lovingly cared for during his treatment by his wife and our colleague, Jacqueline Dupree.
Throughout his final journey that began in late June, Bill handled his diagnosis with grace and thorough documentation on social media, as you’d expect from a dogged journalist, but he also continued to be wryly funny even though the odds were not in his favor.
On July 6, he wrote: “I’m afraid I have some not-good news. I recently found out — gradually and then suddenly, like the bankrupt Hemingway character — that I have cancer. Jacqueline Dupree and I hope to learn more next week about exactly what form this cancer is taking, but suffice it to say it is not one of the kinder, gentler cancers. Believe me, I’m going to fight this thing. And Jacqueline is going to help me fight this thing. I’m not sure you’d want to bet on This Thing, quite frankly. At the same time, my wife and I are realists. We’re putting whatever faith we can muster in science aided by determination, not in sunny affirmations or soft-focus memes. We will not shy from gallows humor. For several years now, we have looked at each other and shaken our heads and marveled at our good fortune. If we had said these things to other people, it would have sounded like smug bragging. But we really were grateful, and we still are. I have had a great life. I have a great wife, a great family, a great job, etc., etc. I would not trade 55 of these years for 75 or 85 or 95 of what’s behind Door No. 2. And isn’t it lucky, in a way, that I have these months or years of warning, at a relatively young age, with my mind still intact? I have time to really concentrate on soaking in what’s great about this world. The little things. (Why do you think I've been getting all weepy about how pretty the cardinals are?) Plenty of causes of death don’t work that way. I’ll never be a doddering old man! I haven’t done all the things I want to do or seen all the places I want to see, but I've done and seen a lot of them, and there’s still time. I’ve somehow never seen Ireland, but I could get on a plane and take care of that tomorrow. (I just might.) While I’m smugly boasting, did I mention that I can swing neither of my cats without hitting a world-class cancer center? Johns Hopkins, the best in the region, is an easy drive, and a team of specialists there will be waiting for me next week. As lucky as I am to be escaping doddering-old-man status, maybe I’ll be even luckier: Maybe I’ll end up a doddering old man.”
A snippet of his cheeky observations while undergoing treatment:
July 27: “Only sour note so far in The Chemotherapy Experience (coming soon to Disney parks): One nurse has ‘Barbie Girl’ as his ringtone, AND that is causing other nurses to whistle that tune, which is less than ideal given my thoughts about (a) that tune and (b) whistling.”
Aug. 11: “Went to the shopping mall. Piped-in assault-on-the-senses music in most stores is worse than cancer. So, you know, perspective.”
Aug. 24: “Another pleasant chemotherapy session (second and final infusion of Round 2 – a round is three weeks: infuse, infuse, rest), and my first at the new Johns Hopkins Sidney-Not-Jimmy Kimmel Cancer Center at Sibley. Five or six hours in a chair sounds boring, but I could sit there twice as long. It is truly a highlight of my week. The nurses are smart and capable and funny. I have my books and my music and my Jacqueline. And I continue to feel good, aside from that one big asterisk. Soon we should be talking about more-advanced treatments. And in 40 years, give or take, they should be interviewing me for the documentary.”
Oct. 5: “Showed up for PET scan with one cat under each arm and the tech was like ‘WTH?' and I was like ‘WTH?' and, long story short, I could use $5,000 bail.”
Oct. 19: “I checked in [at Sibley] and they gave me a beeper. Just like at Cheesecake Factory.”
Taking cancer lying down wasn’t Bill’s style. So Ireland got checked off the bucket list when he hopped across the pond, in between chemo treatments in October, with Jacqueline. The dynamic duo also saw “Hamilton” in August, made a quick trip to Detroit with family in September and spent an early Christmas together at the Greenbrier Resort in mid-December. They even carved Halloween pumpkins this year. Bill’s gourd, a self-portrait of sorts, donned a jaunty bowler in a tip of the hat to the last of his three books, “Yes, I Could Care Less: How to Be a Language Snob Without Being a Jerk,” published in 2013.
Bill wrote two other books – “Lapsing Into a Comma” (2000) and “The Elephants of Style” (2004) – and founded his popular copy-editing blog, The Slot, in 1995. He was also a must-read on Twitter for his 16,000-plus followers. Plainly put, Bill was a copy-editing rock star: a master of language and a generous teacher, an extraordinarily clever headline writer and the gatekeeper of The Washington Post Stylebook. Before the multiplatform desk was created in 2010, of which Bill was the lead slot editor, he was the copy chief of the Financial and National sections during his 20 years in the newsroom. Bill was also superhumanly efficient and an organizational wonder who did not believe in taking sick days.
Bill Walsh's magic lay in his dry wit, urbane sensibility and pitch-perfect curmudgeonly fa├žade that he played to great effect, a popular grumpy-old-man character that merely veiled a heart as big as the District. Bill was a doting husband, a caring friend and a worldly, engaged and passionate man, all reminders of a life well-lived.
The tennis-playing, bicycle-riding, cat-loving, all-around-great-guy also loved hyphens. So to all the newsroom folks out there: When in doubt, use hyphens with your compound modifiers, live life to the fullest and find smart humor wherever you can.
Bill did.

Friend in D.C. sent me pics of the print edition, complete with B1 refer.


John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun on my brother's passing. I couldn't have written a better headline myself. Read HERE.


Trent said...

So sorry for your loss, Kenneth. He was an amazing writer and sounds like an even more remarkable brother. Take care of yourself.

Anonymous said...


My deepest condolences to you and your family.

May sadness, in time, turn into happiness as you remember all the fun times you had with your brother.

I am happy that you all had time to spend with Bill during his illness.

Be well.


Boomer said...

What a wonderful tribute.

Dave in Texas said...

What a touching tribute.

Michael said...

I am so sorry for your loss; sending deepest condolences to you and your family.
The tribute is wonderful! I am thinking of you...