It is was with a heavy heart that many of us this last week learned that a fixture, stalwart, and advocate of our community had unexpectedly passed away. Both personally and as an organization, we did not always agree with Dick Lutz, former editor-in-chief of The WIRE. But his resolve, grit, and love of Roosevelt Island, and all of us who make up life on this Island, was always evident in all that he did.
Always an advocate and supporter of those in our community who looked to improve the life of Island residents, including RIRA, his presence, influence, and insight will truly be missed. Dick was more than just a journalist or an editor to RIRA and its members, but truly the last of a dying breed of reporters and writers who understood the need for truthful, fact-based, and unbiased reporting in a community such as ours. To the generations ahead who will peer into his prior body of work, may they each learn what it means to roll-up your sleeves, be determined to find the truth, and the importance of unbiased and truthful reporting in a world as ours.
Dick had recently been working with the youngest members of the Children Youth and Education Committee, chaired by Adib Mansour, on the RIRA Time Capsule project. Their words best capture and honor Dick, and he would be proud to read, and see published, their thoughts:
Today I am very sorrowful to have lost one of my role models, but joyful to have met him. In life you meet a lot of people, and sometimes you come across someone you know is a great person. Dick Lutz was that person for me.
He would jump through hoops for a friend in need without hesitation. Dick always spoke the truth. Dick worked relentlessly for his community. Dick Lutz was kind and fair.
Just several weeks ago, I mentioned RIRA’s Time Capsule project and he instantaneously offered a three-part lecture to the students. At the time, he was in Florida attending to the health of “an old college chum.” Yet he found time to fly to NYC and give the team an invaluable series of lectures in the span of two weeks. He gave the team a college-level lecture on writing a great profile. The last lecture was March 9.
The last time I talked with Dick, he asked me to encourage the youth of the Island to participate in the anti-gun movement.
I am devastated that the team’s interview of Dick was postponed until April. He was so humble and he will always remain the unsung hero.
Today I am sad because I lost a friend. Today I am happy because I’ve known a hero.
Dick always supported RIRA and its members. He often called or emailed asking for updates on the Children, Youth & Education Committee’s projects. He had a genuine interest in the wellbeing of the Island’s residents and especially the youth. My relationship with Dick Lutz goes back numerous years. Dick always sent WIRE bulletins regarding RIRA’s election results. He especially enjoyed taking the panoramic picture of the newly elected RIRA members.
I asked the five students in RIRA’s Children, Youth & Education Committee’s Time Capsule to write about their three encounters with Dick Lutz during the month of March. Here are a few of those responses.
The Time Capsule Project team, with the help of Adib Mansour, believed an important part of collecting personal stories from Roosevelt Island residents included being able to write profile pieces. Adib asked the most experienced and talented writer/editor he knew, Dick Lutz. Mr. Lutz agreed to teach three lessons and even extended his stay in New York City one more day to teach one of the lessons, before leaving to Florida for vacation. While participating in the lesson, each team member had to create a profile on someone living on Roosevelt Island, I chose my father. While writing this profile, I was having a hard time thinking about a good hook to grab the reader. One thing Dick Lutz taught me that stuck with me from the lessons is the ability to be patient when thinking about a good hook for a story. Lutz told me, “Think about the hook you have and don’t look at it, sleep on it, and tomorrow the best version of the hook could present itself.” Dick Lutz was a great mentor, writer, and Roosevelt Island resident.
Dick Lutz went from being a stranger to me to being one of the most impactful mentors I have ever had.
For as long as I have lived here on the Island, I never knew much about The WIRE besides it being Roosevelt Island’s “primary source of information about what’s going on [on the island],” as Mr Lutz put it. But, recently, I have had the pleasure of getting to learn more about The WIRE and the masterminds behind its thriving, as well as getting an inside scoop on journalism from one of The WIRE’s finest, Mr Dick Lutz.
As part of the Time Capsule Project, we have worked and continue to work to preserve all of the things here on the Island that make it so special, so that in 25 years the Islanders of the future can indulge in learning about the Island’s past. One of our main focuses is interviewing important figures who have contributed to the Island’s well-being. To improve our writing abilities and journalism, Dick Lutz offered three sessions about how to become better journalists and writers in general.
For most of my life, I was not a confident writer nor did I enjoy writing, until Mr. Lutz began his sessions and totally changed my perspective on the art of writing. At our very first session, Mr. Lutz assigned us homework, and it was to write profile newspaper articles that were centered on one person here on the Island who we thought was inspiring. After a few days of getting to write our articles, we went to our second session with articles in hand, ready for the glasses-ed man in the aloha shirt to critique our papers. The whole session was spent analyzing our mistakes and learning several neat tips and tricks for writing. We learned that articles should start with a “bang,” that a good article should have some humour, and that paragraphs shouldn’t be lengthy because no one nowadays likes reading 20-sentence paragraphs – thanks, technology. And so, with our newly acquired knowledge on how to better write our articles, we went home and edited them, hoping that at our next session we wouldn’t have as much commentary.
Before our second session had ended, Mr. Lutz asked me to share with him my work so that he could further comment on it. I received Mr. Lutz’ email in the evening with his commentary, and I had never seen a commentary more helpful, and beautiful too, than his. And so, with the much-needed commentary, I proceeded to edit my article to make sure everything would be perfect for our third and final session.
At our final session, Mr. Lutz further critiqued our work, despite us thinking we would no longer need correcting – boy were we wrong. But, for me, the harsh (but nicely said) criticism didn’t matter, because an honest teacher is the best teacher for it is he who will see the most progress in his students. I still have all of the papers Mr. Lutz gave out, as well as his handwritten commentary, and I will forever safeguard them as a reminder of the time well spent with him.
I am without a doubt very blessed to have gotten to know Mr. Lutz and to have my work seen by him. He was not only “that editor,” but, he became a mentor to me in regards to my writing and journalism. A quote that I found goes, “A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart.” But, I’m going to manipulate the quote. Mr. Dick Lutz was a teacher who took my hand and put in it a pencil and paper, who opened my mind to the beauty of writing and telling the stories of the people, places and things around me that make this Island the greatest place in New York, and who touched my heart significantly, by being a kind-hearted, but honest teacher. I am very appreciative of Mr. Lutz’s time with the Time Capsule Project, and his wise and uplifting words will forever be remembered. Fly high, Mr. Lutz.
Jeff Escobar, President
RI Residents Association