This week, we will say goodbye to the one person who has touched more lives in Northeast Philadelphia over the last 20 years than anyone else in the newsroom of the Northeast Times.
Joyce Ruggero, the paper’s community editor, will turn 65 next month and has decided to retire.
Since 1993, Joyce has been the gatekeeper for all the community listings and people pages that are published in the paper each week. It is her careful hand and organized mind that are behind creating the popular community calendar and updated listings such as reunions, trips, casino trips and religious services.
With the patience of a saint and the attention to detail of a watchmaker, she builds these pages each week from an assortment of press releases, emails, phone calls and handwritten letters.
I often hear her on the phone telling first-timers how to submit items and the deadlines for making the paper.
In deciding what to include, she asks herself a simple question: “Does this benefit our readers at large?”
If the answer is yes, event organizers get a mention in the paper. Whether it’s belly dancing, children’s art classes or a benefit beef ’n’ beer, sponsors know that contacting Joyce is an important step in making an event a success.
In explaining the care she takes with every page, she said she “always tried to make sure it was concise and that it was right.”
Over the years, her array of people pages has grown to include scholars, military news, engagements and birthdays — milestones that celebrate and connect our community.
In addition to crafting the community pages, Joyce has administered the Eleanor Smylie annual Christmas charity for about 10 years. She has single-handedly kept track of the requests for help and matched them with the donations that come in from readers.
Woe be to the writer who tried to scam the system. She could sniff out a phony request a mile away, and they didn’t get a dime.
During the holidays, the busiest days in her own life, she made time to buy the gift cards made possible by the donations and mail them well before the holidays. Her work meant dozens of needy families were not forgotten, and each was assured of gifts under the Christmas tree.
Joyce’s journey to the newsroom of the Times began in 1980 when she worked as a receptionist and took classified ads for what was then called the Piggyback Shopper. It’s name was later changed to The Midweek. By 1987, the Smylie family owned both The Midweek and the Times. In 1993, John Scanlon, editor of the Times, had the good sense to invite Joyce into the newsroom.
Over the last two weeks, Joyce has been teaching the ins and outs of her job to our next community editor, Shahida Muhammad. Shahida was the listings editor at Philadelphia Weekly and we’re glad to have her on board.
Readers will be able to reach her at Joyce’s old number, 215-354-3041, and at firstname.lastname@example.org. Shahida also can be reached at her own email address, email@example.com.
Joyce, meanwhile, has her heart set on spending more time this summer with her husband, Jack, at their Wildwood shore house, and enjoying their five grandchildren.
What will she miss most, I asked her when we talked about her departure? Her answer came quickly.
“The people I worked with, and the people I dealt with on the phone and by email,” she said.
Rest assured, we won’t let her get away without a few parties and toasts in her honor, but it will be impossible to thank her enough for her great work over the years in making the Times an essential part of our readers’ lives. ••