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 Post subject: Copy editor dies; wore eyeshade, wrote puns
PostPosted: Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:52 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 14, 2005 3:47 pm
Posts: 4655
Location: New York City
Saratoga historian, famed Mercury News copy editor Willys Peck dies at 89

SARATOGA -- Willys Peck, the grand impresario of Saratoga history and a claimant to the title of the wittiest valley headline writer, died Tuesday afternoon at his beloved Saratoga home. He was 89, and was looking forward to "Jeopardy," his favorite program.

By turns historian, lawyer, newspaperman, train buff and playwright, Peck came as close to being a Renaissance man as Silicon Valley allowed. His roots were deep in his hometown of Saratoga, where he lived with his wife, Betty, on an acre and a quarter.
Peck acted the lead, or sometimes the comic foil, in a lifetime play of his own design. Well into his 80s, he habitually wore the green visor of a veteran newspaper copy editor. His instinct for the gently satirical pun was unmatched.

"When you watched Willys craft headlines, you knew you were watching the master at work," said Linda Zavoral, a Mercury News editor who was Peck's copy desk supervisor until he retired from full-time work in 1989.

"He would call up a story in the computer directory, then lean back in his chair -- green eyeshade on, always -- and puff slowly on his pipe, pondering the options. A literary reference, perhaps? A pun? Something alliterative?"

The pipe became such a part of Peck's method that when the Mercury News moved to ban smoking in the newsroom, a number of his fellow copy editors worried it would impair Peck's ingenuity. It did not.

Peck wrote the single best one-two headline punch in the history of the newspaper when the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors attempted to name the county's new light rail system "SC2AT," for Santa Clara County Area Transit.

When the newspaper ran a story saying that "scat" was another name for animal dung, Peck's headline read, "Dung, dung, dung, Goes the Trolley."
[San Jose Mercury News]

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