We bid farewell to a key newsroom editor

Long­time North­east Times com­munity ed­it­or set to re­tire. 

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 pronews@bsmphilly.com. Shahida also can be reached at her own email ad­dress, smuhammad@bsmphilly.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. ••

You can reach at lswanson@bsmphilly.com.

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