Publishing Industry Mentor Still a Community Giant

 In Blog

When my journalism career began in the mid-1990s, David Starr already had 40 years under his belt in the newspaper industry. When I was covering Granby and South Hadley on my first news beat for the Springfield Newspapers—called the Springfield Morning Union back then in 1985—David was in the publisher’s office downstairs.

He was—and still is—the president of The Republican and senior editor of the 26 newspapers owned by Advance Publications. He was a gentle giant with a kind but powerful presence. Very occasionally, he would walk through the newsroom, or I would spy him in the editor’s office with the door closed.

I was in awe of David then. And I remain in awe of him now.

At 95, he says he doesn’t particularly feel like slowing down. The lifelong philanthropist can’t stop thinking about the things he can still do for his community.

A resident of Glenmeadow—a life plan community in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and a client I and my colleagues in The Creative support in various ways—David goes into his office generally once a week at The Republican. He also meets periodically with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Kevin Kennedy, the city’s chief development officer.

“We do a lot of thinking and planning and talking about how to do things downtown,” says David, whose influence in Western Massachusetts continues to impact everything from local news coverage to economic development.

I was recently thrilled to interview David about his ongoing work in the community, in economic development and as a philanthropist for a blog on the Glenmeadow website about his lifetime milestones and what he enjoys about living at Glenmeadow.

I learned that David and his wife, Peggy, have supported Springfield-area arts organizations for decades. This is in part why he last year received a Massachusetts Governor’s Award in the Humanities for his extensive involvement in the Springfield community.

David gave Peggy shared credit for the award. “Peggy was a major force. It’s not just me,” he said. “We were a good team together. She taught me music, art, dance, and literature, and I taught her economics, politics, and history. We did a good job of growing together.” They will celebrate their 75th anniversary this year.

The devotion I heard in David’s voice made me teary-eyed, as did his noting that he and Peggy still enjoy holding hands.

As I listened to David, who has been an industry role model for so many decades, I realized it never once occurred to me that at one point in his career, he was also a newbie.

David’s career began in 1940. As a sophomore at Queens College in New York, he landed a summer job at the Long Island Daily Press, an Advance Newspapers paper. He worked Friday nights and Saturdays, getting coffee for the editors, washing desks in the newsroom, answering the phone and occasionally writing stories.

When he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics, David became a Long Island Daily Press police reporter. After a four-year stint in the United States Army, during which his focus was on arresting high-profile Nazis in Austria, David returned to his newspaper. He moved up the ranks and was named senior editor of all the conglomerate’s 26 newspapers in 1966.

Back then, David worked with New York mayors on city development. When the Long Island Daily Press folded in 1977, David and Peggy moved to Springfield and got involved in local culture, continuing the community activism they began in New York City here.

David continues to be a community celebrity in Greater Springfield, and he’s a celebrity at Glenmeadow as well. He has led talks there on the history of Springfield, and he sat on a panel I helped to organize a few years ago on the importance of philanthropy.

He enjoys the people he has met at Glenmeadow, noting they are “people of interest.”

For me, David is a person of interest, a person I will long admire.

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