Dogs, Willie Nelson and correct grammar

Retired Spotlight editor Susan Graves dies at 66

The obituary was short. Two paragraphs noted that Susan Graves had died, and not a lot more.

Her former colleague of 10 years Dev Tobin saw the irony for The Spotlight editor who had always taken such particular care with death notices in the paper.

Obituaries are a person's last story, and Sue wanted to make sure they were correct and complete, Tobin said.

That attention to detail is one thing people remember about Graves, who died Wednesday, Feb. 3. Her nearly 20-year career at Spotlight Newspapers began as a reporter at one paper, and ended as executive editor of 12 papers. She'd often hand a corrected proof newspaper page back to a reporter with so much red ink on it that it looked bloodied.

"Sue had been a teacher before she was an editor," Tobin said. "She fit that into her editor's job seamlessly. She was exacting, and wanted things done right, but she was also patient. She was committed to fixing up the copy, then talking it through with reporters, showing them how to make a story lively and correct."

"She was fierce, passionate, smart and hilarious," said Michael Larabee, one of many who started their post-college careers as a reporter at The Spotlight. "She was also massively disorganized, but that was part of her charm."

After starting as a reporter in 1990, Larabee wanted to become a copy editor at The Spotlight.

"Sue wouldn't let me copy edit until I could turn in completely clean copy," Larabee said. "I'd always screw something up. I had a lot of trouble with the word 'its' and apostrophes, and Sue always made a fuss about the error. I thought she was making a bigger deal out of it than it warranted, when I'd turned in what I hoped was a great story. Her point was that it wasn't such a great story if a mistake took the reader's attention away from the subject matter."

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