‘Short while’ became 51 years for Review staffer

Margaret Lavin came to the St. Louis Review in 1957 intending to work there for a short while.

“I was just going to get experience and take it somewhere else. But I liked it and kept working there,” she said.

Lavin recently retired from the Review after 51 years, working for seven editors and five archbishops, who serve as publisher of the Review. “Little did I ever think I’d be there this long,” she said with a laugh.

Many exciting events occurred during the years,  she said, recalling the papal visit in 1999, other national and international figures coming to St. Louis and the turbulent times of the 1960s. She noted how the Review itself was protested in the 1980s when a decision was made to discontinue taking political advertising.

Each archbishop made a mark on the Church through his direction of the newspaper, she noted. Often the paper was accused of being too liberal or too conservative, sometimes on its coverage of the same issue.

One lesson she learned was that “you can’t please everyone. We tried to get the Catholic viewpoint out. It was a good paper, and I enjoyed working there. I learned a lot about people, the archdiocese, the Church, the city and more.”

When Lavin came to the Review she was a receptionist, answering a switchboard with six outside lines for 18 employees, and doing other office duties. She eventually became secretary to the editor, also assisting the editors with their dual role of director of communications for the archdiocese. Her goal, she said, was to work with the editor and staff to continue making the Review a better Catholic newspaper.

Msgr. Edward Sudekum, editor from 1981-94, called Lavin a stabilizing influence, especially during times of change and a succession of editors with different styles of editing and various demands.

“She always was resourceful, capable and willing to respond to whatever challenge was given her,” he said.

Along the way, he noted, she turned the job into a ministry. “She really did see it as a service to the Church of St. Louis. In her own quiet way, she was important and necessary to the ongoing stability of the paper, going out of her way to help people get things done.”

When Lavin came to the Review Msgr. J. Daniel Moore was editor and the paper was in what is now the Catholic Charities building at 4532 Lindell Blvd. The paper had four writers, two priest-editors and four advertising salespeople.

Msgr. Moore planned the renovation and move to the Review’s own building at 462 N. Taylor Ave. in the Central West End but died in 1964 just before the move.

Lavin noted that the editors were knowledgeable men, good communicators who all wanted the Review to be the best Catholic newspaper.

“They knew what was going on locally and nationally. And they wanted the people to be informed Catholics. The motto was: ‘An informed Catholic reads the Catholic press.’” 

 Lavin was one of the original members of the St. Louis Newspaper Guild at the paper when the unit formed in 1967. She has been a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Richmond Heights since 1968. She attended St. Roch Grade School in St. Louis and Mercy High School in University City.

Her parents were born in Ireland and always had music in the house with their seven children. Her father, Richard, played the fiddle, bagpipe and flute. Her mother, Mary, enjoyed singing old Irish songs and reciting poetry. The new retiree continues to enjoy Irish music and attends Irish festivals in Milwaukee and Cleveland each summer.

One of the things she learned being in an Irish-Catholic family was that “you can’t forget your religion or where you came from.”

It was different being the child of an immigrant, “but I didn’t realize it at the time,” she said. “Now, looking back, times were tough. That’s why I went to work after high school — to get a job and contribute back to the family.”

Her mother often told her to “be proud of what you do. Make an honest living.”

She noted that she misses her colleagues at the Review, who continue to make it a good Catholic newspaper. “Over the years I have met some interesting people. A sense of humor and not taking things too seriously helped the years go by.”

Also retiring at the same time from the Review was Tony Simokaitis, a salesman who worked there 18 years.

A member of St. Pius V Parish in South St. Louis, he was an athlete in his younger days, playing sports at St. Mary’s High School  and  football for a year at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He and his wife, Judy, have eight children and 12 grandchildren.

One son, Joe, was a star baseball player at the University of Nebraska and now plays in the Seattle Mariners organization.

Of the job at the Review, Simokaitis said he most enjoyed “meeting people, getting acquainted face to face with the advertisers.”

 

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