Exciting Lunch With Books on Tap

Excitement is growing in local literary circles in anticipation of award-winning author Jaimy Gordon’s visit to a special edition of the Ohio County Library’s Lunch With Books series at noon Monday, March 21. Gordon will discuss her National Book Award-winning new novel, “Lords of Misrule,” which is set in the Wheeling area.

Gordon also was among the five finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. However, the 2011 prize was awarded Tuesday, March 15, to author Deborah Eisenberg for her work, “The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg.”

Eisenberg will receive a $15,000 prize for the honor. Gordon and the other finalists will receive $5,000 each.

At the library event tomorrow, copies of “Lords of Misrule” will be available for purchase through Words and Music bookstore of Wheeling.

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Perhaps it’s a sign of getting older, but it seems as though we have been attending far too many funerals and memorial services for friends and colleagues in recent years. In the past couple of weeks, we have lost two colleagues to brain cancer: Jeff Gillespie, after a five-year fight, and Joe Lampert, after a nine-year battle.

Jeff joined the sports staff of The Intelligencer after graduating from Wheeling Jesuit University. Fun-loving, but serious about sports, he was a “gentle giant.”

After working as a sportswriter here for nine years, Jeff and his wife, Linda, moved to Georgia where he joined the staff of another newspaper and later became sports editor of the Rockdale Journal. He served in that position for 12 and one-half years until illness curtailed his involvement. Remembrances published in the Journal noted the western Pennsylvania native’s abiding loyalty to his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. In addition to sports work, he was active in his church and in church- and community-related programs. Jeff succumbed, at age 44, on Friday, March 4.

When I arrived at the Wheeling News-Register as a “cub” reporter, Joe was a young reporter, too. In addition to regular reporting duties, he wrote a rock column that was quite popular and garnered a large fan base of devoted readers. Joe also was known in his circle of friends at the newspaper and beyond for the toga parties that he and his housemates threw.

When Bridget Link came to the newspapers as an intern, we watched romance blossom between Joe and Bridget. That romance grew into enduring love, and they were married. Their wedding reception, held on the lawn and field of a home in rural Belmont County, was memorable.

A band that Joe was managing entertained from a “stage” on a flat-bed trailer in the back yard. Later, we were told, sheriff’s deputies arrived in the wee hours of the morning and ordered the band to turn down the volume on the amplifiers.

We watched as Joe and Bridget were filled with joy over the birth of their daughter, Ambrosia, and their son, Abraham. We observed as the two clever tykes grew into the accomplished adults that they are today.

Joe was a perceptive reporter and an excellent editor. Colleagues remember his humor, his intellect and his compassion. Perhaps his greatest gift was his unflappable nature, which served him well in the hectic world of journalism and in his personal life.

Joe, who became the Ohio regional editor of the News-Register and The Intelligencer, worked at the Wheeling papers for about 21 years until being named editor of The Times Leader in 1996. He remained in that position until 2002, when illness forced an end to that phase of his journalistic career.

Over the next nine years, Joe survived several surgeries and endured experimental treatments and conventional cancer therapies. He and Bridget moved to Rockville, Md., in 2006, so that Joe could undergo treatment at the National Institutes of Health. At that time, Bridget accepted a position with the NIH staff.

Forced to relearn basic skills after the ravages of illness, Joe persevered and completed an 80,000-word manuscript detailing his journey with cancer. When he was well enough, Joe – who, like many of us, had “ink in his blood” – enjoyed being a docent at the Newseum in suburban Washingtonm D.C.

Joe inspired many people with his courage and his candor, his determination and his perseverance. The earthly portion of Joe’s life ended, at age 57, last Sunday, March 13.

Truly, it could be said of both Joe and Jeff that they “fought the good fight.” May light perpetual shine upon them.

Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at: Comins@news-register.net