Cha-chunk, cha-chunk, cha-chunk went the sound of the printing press in the basement of the Register office at the corner of Union Street and Townsend Avenue. That's how long ago I met Mary Brewer. She was downstairs with pressman Frank Chamberlain and publisher Roy Kelley putting the latest edition together on the Linotype machine.
I was a kid living in the neighborhood and dropped by once in a while to watch how they put my hometown weekly newspaper together during the early '60s. Mary and Roy would also load the bundles of freshly printed newspaper into a vehicle for distribution throughout the town.
I knew her stepdad, Frank Dodge, as he was a bus driver and janitor in the Boothbay Harbor Grammar School. And I watched her stepbrother, Munro, perform on the basketball court and baseball field in high school. But I didn't get to know Mary well until after college, but I did know about her daughter, Sarah, as an outstanding gymnast. I did frequently see Mary taking photos at our football games, taking notes on small scraps of paper, and rushing off to her next "assignment."
I came looking for a writing job at the Register during one of my summers in the late ’70s while still studying journalism at the University of Maine. She kindly turned me down as there were no openings.
Fast forward to 1987. I was married, we had one child and were planning on another. Mary knew about my journalism studies and sought me out one late winter/early spring day to write some articles for the paper's “new” Summertime supplement, a 10- or 12-page tabloid-size paper with special articles about the summer scene.
The hook was now set and for the next 25 years, Mary and I spent several hours a week together in the place we both called our “home away from home.”
Marylouise Cowan had taken over as publisher about a year before I came on board after her husband, Howard, died. Mary and Marylouise were a great pair to look up to during my budding career. Both were busy as all get out but always took the time for getting to know me and making the newspaper the best it could be.
Mary was a great boss. She ran the paper for Marylouise as managing editor and guided me well in my years as editor. She cared so much about the region, the people, the newspaper and the industry. She wasn't shy about expressing her opinion well through her editorials. She listened when people came to her office to talk about issues. She dealt with many different personalities who worked at the newspaper with kid gloves, always maintaining peace when deadline tempers flared (which thankfully didn't happen too often). She was a former Maine Press Association Journalist of the Year and was named to the MPA Hall of Fame and the New England Press Hall of Fame after she retired in 2012. Deservedly so.
When she announced her retirement after 50-plus years of being at the newspaper, I felt a sense of unease because ever since I could remember, Mary Brewer was the Boothbay Register. But she left on her own terms and got to enjoy a few years watching her grandchildren, Hannah and Nicholas, blossom athletically, without having to worry about getting another paper out.
Mary and her husband, Butch, raised a wonderful daughter, Sarah, who eventually became one of our sales representatives. Sarah and I used to sit beside each other in the office and I would enjoy hearing her stories about her mother outside the office and I hope she enjoyed my stories about "my work mother" inside the office in my early years.
How do I end this? This is one thing I never wanted to write.
Let's just say ... thank you Mary Brewer for giving this journalist a chance, for inspiring me and many others for a quarter of a century, and for memories everlasting. God bless you.