A Tribute to Charles A. Monagan

 

After 24 years as editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine, Charles A. Monagan is moving on. Many of his colleagues past and present took the opportunity to honor him below.
 

We’re pretty wrapped up in words here at Connecticut Magazine. Writing them, editing them, crafting them to fit in the space allotted—while still telling the story that it is our privilege to tell. So when I was asked to add to this tribute to Charley (but to keep it under 150 words) I was intimidated to say the least. After all, how would I—how could I?—possibly sum up 22 years? I’d shown in front of Charley’s desk in 1991, fresh out of college and looking for a job. Instead, I found a family—with Charley at its head. In the two decades since, he has inspired me, believed in me and taught me so very much. Because of CAM I am a better writer, editor and person.

So, Charley, I guess in the end it really just comes down to two words, “Thank you.”

Michelle Bodak Acri, former editor & contributing writer
 


 

Professionally, I’m grateful to Charley for too many things to mention, but personally, there’s one moment that I’ll probably reflect on the rest of my life. It happened after a heated squabble I had in the office with a co-worker that left me seething self-righteously the rest of the day. Charley finally took me in hand and said, “It’s pointless to get so worked up over something like this. Like the Irish say, ‘You’re dead too long.’” That brought me down to earth pretty fast. I’ve had squabbles since—and deeper, more significant issues in my life—but when I’m dealing with either, it’s amazing how often that simple remark pops into my head. Nobody cuts to the chase like Charley. It’s also why I’ve loved talking to him over the years about shared enthusiasms: music, movies, TV. I know I’ll get a perspective that’s sharp, funny and hits the nail on the head every time.

Pat Grandjean, senior editor
 


 

There are good editors and there are great editors. Charles A. Monagan is a great editor. I should know—I’ve worked for book editors, magazine editors and newspaper editors, and learned from all of them.

Here are some of the things I learned from Charley:

• Great editors are decisive and their decisions determine the quality of the editorial product. I like being published in a magazine that chooses to publish writers so good I read them first. I have Charley to thank for that.
• Great editors encourage. This is important because writers beat themselves up a lot. Once an editor put a sign over my desk, “Please don’t scare the writer.” Charley never did. He listened, he solved problems and he took your back.

What it all adds up to is what I learned almost from day one: Charley Monagan is not only a great editor, he’s a great guy.

Elise Maclay, restaurant reviewer
 


 

Dear Charley,

I want to thank you for the 22 years you guarded my corner at the magazine. We had a great team for such a long period of time, I will always be grateful. Best of luck!

Mary Younglove, stylist
 


 

There are few associations I treasure more than the (almost) 25 years I’ve worked at your side at Connecticut Magazine. You’ve been the heart and soul of this enterprise, the steady hand on the tiller, the guiding spirit, our true North. Your absence will be felt keenly—indeed, it’s hard right now to contemplate the way forward without you. It’s been an incredible privilege and pleasure to call you boss, mentor, colleague—and friend. Along the way I have cherished our many conversations about words, books, family, fighting the good fight—life—more than I can say. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Valerie Schroth, senior editor
 


 

Dear Charley,

I simply cannot believe that the magazine will be without its creative force and heart after 24 years. I was so fortunate to have worked with you for 22 of those years, didn’t they go by quickly? It’s not often that we find ourselves in such a unique work situation—colleagues with whom we share common interests and values, a creative and fun office environment and most importantly, a magazine product that we value as if it were our own. As co-workers we could easily recognize your input and oversight in the many features and story ideas. We were incredibly proud to have you serve as our editor. On the days that you wore a tie to work, I would think how lucky the interviewer or audience would be as you left to speak to them. And every month, how lucky the Connecticut Magazine reader was to have such an exceptionally gifted editor invite them along to enjoy and experience the state through his words.

I wish you all the best and much happiness as you pursue new beginnings in your career and enjoy well-deserved time with Marcia and the family.

Debbie Kruitbosch, former controller
 


 

Connecticut Magazine without Charley Monagan is like Rolling Stone without Jann Wenner, the Rolling Stones without Charlie Watts, Mott without the Hoople. When I moved to Connecticut in 1994, I searched for freelance writing outlets in order to stave off the unthinkable: having to find a “real” job. Happily, I found a kindred spirit in Charley at Connecticut Magazine. In the years since, he pushed me to write on subjects about which I felt unqualified but he felt certain I was qualified, and then expertly shepherded the articles into the magazine, where they won a few awards.

Though I am thankful for having met Charley, I am envious of him, for two reasons: One, for the Adam Jones Baltimore Orioles shirt his son got him; two, for his having gotten to see the Doors in concert at Danbury High School in 1967, one of the great fluke concerts in state history.

Alan Bisbort, contributing writer
 


 

The first article I wrote for Charley was in the fall of 1989, for the first issue of his second tour as editor of the magazine. It was a profile of Hartford Archbishop John Whealon, who has since passed away. It was long, but the subject deserved it. I can’t remember what was edited in or out. But it hangs together more than 23 years later.

I am proud to have a piece in his last issue as well: on roller derby and, as you would expect, it is way shorter. I can’t recall ever getting upset with Charley and his editing, even when he axed my brother from a story (I try to work my family in whenever I can).

An editor should be calm, thoughtful, see the big picture, possess a light touch, and have a sense of humor. Charley has all that and more.

David Holahan, contributing writer
 


 

Charley, alas, is not a Top Doc, or a Top Periodontist or even a Top Philanderer (that we know of) but he will go down in the books, should there be books in the future, as Top Editor, because he retains outdated ideas such as quality matters, and all that folderol. He is also a master at the art of the editorial sandwich: taking grief from the bosses above and grief from the writers below, and somehow able to go home at night and, probably with the help of heavy drugs, retain a sense of sanity. 

Thanks, Charley, and remember the inspiring message you so often gave writers: “It’s not quite right for us but good luck placing it elsewhere.” You’re the best.

Lary Bloom, contributing writer
 


 

In July 1989, when Charley Monagan signed on with Connecticut Magazine as Editor, the publication was boasting its largest circulation (a result of rapid CPTV membership growth) and still impressive ad page totals (owing to a euphoric rise during the heady 1980s).

Despite the outward appearance of success, the editorial product had been drifting geographically for some time, with increasing commentary from readers that it had lost its center, that it was turning into “a Fairfield County magazine.” This was troublesome criticism indeed for a publication named “Connecticut.” More so in a state where seven counties harbor the suspicion that Fairfield County displays more allegiance to New York than to Connecticut.

It was no small task then which greeted him on Day 1, further complicated because the state itself is a maze of local loyalties. (Witness that nowhere else in the U.S. does a populace of just 3.2 million people feel the necessity for 18 separate daily newspapers.)

From the outset, Charley had the requisite skills, attributes and background you want in an editor of a statewide magazine. He still does, better than anyone I know. An accomplished writer in his own right, he has the respect of every other writer. In turn, he respects their words, editing lightly so the writer’s individual voice is preserved.

His leadership style soon calmed an admittedly apprehensive editorial and art staff. Rather than “cleaning house and replacing with his people” as less secure managers often do, he chose to appreciate and invest in the staff he was inheriting. Because he validated and valued the efforts of talented people, is it any surprise they rewarded him with their best efforts for the next 286 editions of the magazine? And would gladly have continued to do so if external forces had not intervened.

He also brought with him an intimate knowledge of every corner of the state. During his years working for Governor William O’Neill, Charley had visited every town in Connecticut on the campaign trail. Here was the first person in my experience who actually knew where everything was without having to refer to a map. More importantly, he had a sense of every place and what characterized it, so he had a good nose for the story idea that could be interesting to the magazine’s reader audience.

To his enduring credit, Charley also possesses a calmness and long-term view that recognize that the crisis du jour is not necessarily the most important thing. As one of his former colleagues in the governor’s office shared early on, Charley was the “sane one in the group, always keeping his head.” I found the same to be invariably true over a 22-year period. A reliable, trustworthy colleague, his input proved helpful on numerous occasions.

By the way, it wasn’t too long after he assumed the editor’s role that stories from every part of the state began to appear in the magazine. The editorial had found its center once again. And in time, the perception on the part of readers was that Connecticut Magazine was for them. Wherever they might call home in Connecticut.

Mike Mims, former publisher
 


 

As I look back on my nearly fifteen years at Connecticut Magazine there are so many wonderful experiences to recall. The following are just a few that are most notable to me and they represent my view of the heart of my esteemed colleague.

New to the publishing world in 1998, I enthusiastically approached Charley to write a story about an advertiser. With his signature calm and thoughtful manner he took the time to explain the importance of editorial integrity for a magazine like ours. And as a result, over the years I came to appreciate Charley’s integrity not just in his writing and approach to the magazine’s mission but in regard to his relationship with co-workers. Charley recognized and appreciated all the contributions our small, talented team delivered everyday.

I was hired in part to manage the magazine’s first ever Best of Connecticut Party. Charley kindly recognized my role in delivering a successful event in one of his editor’s letters. This was a proud day for me and, indeed, the day I fully realized I was an integral part of the Connecticut Magazine family. More importantly, knowing that my effort was appreciated so publicly by a person I and all of Connecticut respected made my day. We did ten of those parties together and thankfully ended that part of our history on a happy note in 2007 with a grand finale at Foxwoods Resort & Casino.

Charley, thank you for being an appreciative colleague and co-worker, whose warmth and good humor held steadfast even in tough times.

Jocelyn Paoletta, former marketing director
 


 

Dear Charley,

For being the face, and voice, of Connecticut Magazine to hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions?) of readers and fans for the past almost 25 years (more than 25 counting your late ‘70s-early ‘80s stint as editor), thank you.

For raising our consciousness about, and pride in, our special state for all these years, thank you.

For inspiring the magazine staff and connecting with our audience in unique CAM—Class Act Monagan—style all these years, thank you.

For captaining the ship carrying our small editorial crew through rough seas and uncharted waters, always staying true to yourself and your mission, keeping your eye on the North Star and keeping us all safe, thank you. I’m honored to have served as your first mate through the voyage.

And now, as you cast off for yourself, I’m wishing you only smooth seas and blue skies ahead. Godspeed!

Dale Salm, former editor
 


 

This gentleman editor was the supreme commander. He knew his stuff and dished it out with seasoned savvy. But he also solicited input, and gave it his rapt attention. Edit meetings were more like family dinners, everyone comfortable to share experiences and contribute openly, knowing every word was honored.

Charley enjoyed our quirks. In 1979 when he was editor the first time, I was employed in the art department. One of my functions was designing Rapid Fire, a section that consisted of tightly written [Robert Palm] news bites. I’d struggled with an idea for one article that didn’t quite fit no matter what I did, and asked Charley if he could cut ‘13 words.’ His reply, with a smile: “Which 13 did you have in mind?” He knew I’d never ask such a question unless I’d already picked them out!

Carol Petro, design associate
 


 

Charley,

I just say the words “Connecticut Magazine” and I think, “Charley Monagan.”

Man, you have been the “General,” the leader of troops, the one making the plans, completing the mission and keeping up the moral. Okay, you never actually yell “charge” but you know what I mean.

You have gotta know how much you are respected and how much you will be missed by all of us of us who have been lucky enough to work with you in the “trenches” over the years.

So what’s next I wonder? A new book, another play, a scathing article for Vanity Fair, perhaps a column at the Hartford Courant? So many possibilities.

No doubt you will be successful at whatever your next adventure turns out to be. I sincerely hope at least one of the scenarios involves a bottle, a blue sky and a beach somewhere. A highly recommended place to start.

I know I might be in line behind Joan, Stacey and Carol when I say this, but “just call if you ever need another art director.” I’d sign up again in a heart beat.

Cheers and many happy new adventures!

Lori Wendin, former art director
 


 

When I made the cut for a spot on Charles A. Monagan’s team, it was like being drafted by Major League Baseball for me. And I couldn’t have found a better coach anywhere.

Contrary to some, I’m not the slightest bit worried about my friend, Charley as he moves forward into his next big adventure—because through all the years of our association at Connecticut Magazine, he has always exhibited the unmistakable traits of a winner—and as he always does, he will rise to the top and shine in any new endeavor. It’s been a true pleasure working with him, not only because of his vision and expertise, but because he’s a man of wit and good humor, and fundamental decency. He’s been both an anchor and a guiding light for me through the years.

I’ve learned so much from Charley about this business (not to mention Connecticut—he’s visited every town!) that I can only believe that he himself must eventually become one of Connecticut’s genuine icons. I send him on his way with my thanks and every good wish— buona fortuna, my friend!

Cathy P. Ross, editor
 


 

I first met Charley as an eager-but-terrified college senior interning at Connecticut Magazine. At our very first meeting, I knew he was someone great—someone I would love to work for and could learn so much from. And when I graduated a few months later and he offered me a full-time position at the magazine, he changed my life. Even starting out as editorial assistant, Charley always made me feel like a real editor and a real part of the team, helping me grow not only as an editor but as a person. Whenever I sat down in his office for help or advice, be it work-related or personal, he was there to listen and offer guidance, and I knew he truly cared—about all of us. I will always consider myself lucky to have worked for and with Charley. When I think of Connecticut Magazine, I think of him. It will always be a great publication that I am honored to have been a part of, but to me it will never be quite the same. Thank you for everything, Charley.

Lauren E. Brancato, former editor
 


 

I still am not quite sure why Charley agreed to hire me as calendar editor back in 1999—actually, he’s told me he’s not exactly sure, either—but he did, and it’s turned out to be the best professional experience of my life. Under his steady, wise guidance, I’ve enjoyed a career that I never thought possible—I’ve discovered amazing places across the state, written about everything from hot dogs to history, interviewed dozens of incredible people and even published two books. All of this wouldn’t have happened if he had never given me that opportunity and then (very) patiently supported me. He may not have always seen it as the unqualified success that I have, but regardless, I will always be grateful. And as happy as I’ve been to say he’s the best boss I’ve ever had, I’m even happier to call him a friend.

Ray Bendici, editor
 


 

It’s hard to sum up in a few words what working with Charley has meant to me, especially when so much of how I feel has been expressed far more eloquently by my colleagues. What I can say is the vote of confidence he gave me as I took steps to an uncertain future helped make a difficult decision a little easier and the support he’s given me in a working partnership I never thought we’d have has inspired me to grow creatively in a direction I’d never thought I’d go. It has been my great privilege to have worked with him. It is an even greater honor to call him friend. Thank you, Charley.

And I still want those retroactive points on Sharon.

Stacey Slimak Shea, senior designer
 


 

I first met Charley Monagan on November 14, 1995. It was my first day as a senior territory manager at Connecticut Magazine. I was very excited as it was my first job at a magazine, a career choice I had always dreamed about.

Coming from a major daily newspaper, the location of the magazine’s offices had given me pause—how could a publication I had always placed in such high regard be headquartered at a location like this? As I was introduced to the staff, it was then my turn to meet the editor. The voice of the magazine. Once we were introduced, it all made sense. Charley provided me the insight into the magazine’s editorial mission and I felt I had made the best career decision I would make in my life. His demeanor was warm and welcoming. His intelligence and wit reinforced my belief that this truly was the magazine for the state of Connecticut, a state in which I had lived and loved, as he too was a lifelong Connecticut resident leading the editorial mission of the magazine exactly as it needed to be told. His passion and dedication to the brand contributed to the success of Connecticut Magazine for the 24 years he served as its editor.

As we start a new editorial chapter, I will feel Charley’s presence every day. I will always keep inside me the passion he had for what he accomplished here and I will do everything in my power to continue his legacy of professionalism and passion for our magazine.

David Glaski, advertising manager
 


 

Dear Charley,

Over the last 17 years that I’ve worked at Connecticut Magazine, you have become my mentor, my confidante and my friend. The voice of reason, I could always rely on you to help me make decisions. Never will I forget the times you just listened when I needed an impartial ear, offered a hug if life was treating me rough, or reminded me that the most important roles we have are as parents.

Professionally, you stand tall in your convictions yet exude coolness and calm. As do all of our colleagues, I am honored to have had the chance to work with and learn from you. Heck, if nothing else I give you credit for having to put up with a bunch of hens all day long, five days a week, without losing your mind.

I cherish our casual chats about Turner Classic Movies, flavored ice cream cones, Paris, and the latest artificial cherry-flavored treats. I will forever wonder what your secret weapon is in choosing celebrities to win the Dead Pool. I’ll even forgive you for being a Red Sox fan. Moving our office to New Haven may have come with few benefits, but knocking on your wall at 4 p.m. all winter long to enjoy the spectacular sunsets from our office windows always helped the day’s challenges fade away.

It is with great admiration and affection that I wish you all the best in your future undertakings . . . especially if they include writing another play (this one with the triple-threat lead character written for me).

I’ll miss you Charley. Every issue. Every day.

—Marisa Dragone
 


 

Charley—You’ve made it through the best of times and the worst of times … and even a few dark and stormy nights. (Hey, you had to know I was going to work that in.) Right now, few pleasant words come to mind, but I’m reminded more and more that we’d never have made it this far without you. You helped hold us together and you listened to us when others wouldn’t. All this while going through the same things yourself. I thank you for that herculean friendship, Charley, and also for tolerating my sense of humor. (That had to have been even harder.) I wish you more success and joy than any kid from Waterbury could ever grow up wishing for. If you can ever make it down my way I know where there’s a hot-oil pizza with your name on it. Just say the word.

David Martin, circulation manager
 


 

I feel comfortable in saying that without Charley, I would have no writing career—indeed, the arcs of our careers have been so intertwined, it almost seems as if we’ve shared a brain at times. As such, I wish him the very best in the future, and hope that he will always keep me in mind. Thanks!

Andrew Brady, contributing writer
 

A Tribute to Charles A. Monagan

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