Memorial services for those who lived well always are bittersweet. There is sadness at the passing of a friend, mentor, role model, and more. But there are stories and remembrances which generate joy and laughter. So it was yesterday at the funeral mass for long-time Washington Times editor Mary Lou Forbes.
Mary Lou was little known to the public, but was a giant in conservative and journalistic circles. One exceptional experience in a life full of exceptional experiences was her friendship with Carl Bernstein–begun when he started at the Washington Star, well before his Watergate fame. Their friendship carried forth for a half century. The Washington Times covered the service:
Family, friends and journalists gathered Wednesday to pay their final respects to Mary Lou Forbes, longtime commentary editor at The Washington Times, who died Saturday after a brief battle with cancer.
Mrs. Forbes, 83, got her start at The Washington Star as a 17-year-old copy girl and worked for more than six decades as a reporter, news chief and opinion editor. She guided hundreds of journalists – including future Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein and nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas. Her reporting on the Virginia civil rights struggle won her a Pulitzer Prize in 1959 and helped open doors for aspiring female journalists.
Mr. Bernstein, who worked as a copy boy and dictationist at The Star, said his first impression of Mrs. Forbes was the “glamorous woman at the other end of the desk.
“She was one of the boys, and yet she never forgot also that she was a woman,” Mr. Bernstein said. “And I don’t know if she was aware or not of this ‘trailblazing’ role that she had, but nobody could have done it better than she did.”
Looking around the church I saw many people I first met two decades or more ago in politics and journalism. We all seem to have added a few pounds and lost a little hair. Many of us have changed jobs and fallen out of touch. But friendship with and admiration of Mary Lou drew us back together to celebrate her life.
She will be missed.
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