Friday, September 16, 2011

Charles Oberdorf dies; writer, editor, teacher, friend

It will come as a matter of great sadness to many of his friends and colleagues in the magazine business, as it has to me, to hear that Charles Oberdorf died this morning. 
Charles was well known as writer, editor and teacher and was widely loved and respected. 
There will apparently be a private family funeral and arrangements are to be made for a celebration of his life sometime later, probably in October. I will make sure to post details here for the many people who may want to attend.
When Charles was honoured by the National Magazine Awards Foundation with its award for Outstanding Achievement in 2008, I wrote:
"The award is well-deserved not only for his teaching and mentorship (he is coordinator of the Magazine and Web Publishing program at the Chang School for Continuing Education at Ryerson University) but also for a long and distinguished career as a stylish magazine writer and editor. You run out of fingers tallying up the magazines he has written for or where he's been an editor."
Charles had suffered for several years with chronic lung disease and had been  hospitalized for some time, though he continued to keep a steady hand on the tiller of the magazine program. 
He leaves wife Mechtild Hoppenrath and daughter, Anya Oberdorf.
If readers of this blog have recollections of Charles they'd like to share, please leave a comment here (click on "comments" below) .



Anonymous Maryam Siddiqi said...

Very sad to hear, and my condolences to his family.

Charles was always so supportive. He, and his continuing ed. magazine editing class, confirmed that I was right to change careers and get into journalism.

4:28 pm  
Anonymous Patrick Walsh said...

I'm so sorry to hear this, D.B. Thanks for sharing. Charles has done so much for this industry, literally right up to his final days. On Wednesday, even with the great difficulty he had breathing, Charles participated in a conference call meeting of Magazines Canada's Membership Committee. That's dedication. And love. We'll certainly miss his humour, intelligence and considerable knowledge of all things magazine. Goodbye, old friend.

5:14 pm  
Blogger Joyce Byrne said...

So sorry to hear and I echo Maryam's condolences to the family.

Though I didn't take Charles' course I came to know him through industry events and had the pleasure of his working with him when he consulted on the redesign of This Magazine in 2003. He will be missed.

5:20 pm  
Anonymous Mark Jamison, president, Magazines Canada said...

To the end Charles was an industry stalwart. He attended MagsCans membership committee conference call Noon Wednesday to offer his as always carefully considered and constructive opinion of the new member applicants to be put before the Board. In his view they were all acceptable this time. No small achievement for these mostly rookie titles given this man's expectations. Thank you Charles.

5:49 pm  
Anonymous Jessica Ross said...

Charles was an advocate for writers, mentor for students, friend of magazines. He taught us to reach higher, to love what we do, to fight for what we love and to be generous with what we know. He brought me into this industry and I'll forever be grateful for that.

In the past few years Charles went from boss to mentor to friend. He'd had a lot of trouble with his health in that time, and I regarded each visit as a gift. But as late as last Thursday I hugged him and waved goodbye, certain I'd see him again this week. His storytelling skills were never finer.

Charles, thank you for all your gifts.

9:51 pm  
Blogger Lu said...

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12:41 am  
Anonymous Lauren Gillett said...

Charles was a true mentor. My condolences to his family. He will be dearly missed.

12:43 am  
Anonymous Sandy Crawley said...

So sorry to hear this truly dedicated mentor has passed on. It was good to see him at the NMAs this year and I know it meant a lot to you, D.B. as you were honoured for carrying a torch Charles ignited.

Sandy Crawley

7:11 am  
Blogger Corinna vanGerwen said...

Very sad news. Charles was a great mentor and a wonderful man. My deepest sympathies to his family.

8:01 am  
Anonymous Dory Cerny said...

Charles was a wonderful instructor, and an inspiration to young editors. His contribution to the magazine community will be sorely missed.

My sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

11:30 am  
Anonymous Tammy Burns said...

This is such sad news. Charles was a wonderful teacher and an incredible advocate for the publishing industry. It's been many years since I took his magazine editing class, but his teaching still stands out in my mind. He had the ability to make students feel challenged, stimulated and excited about writing and editing. I'll never forget his encouragement.

12:29 pm  
Blogger writerjaclyn said...

I took Charles' magazine editing course at Ryerson over a decade ago. After that, he gave me some of my first freelance assignments; later, he helped me make a critical career decision. I regret not telling him how much his support and advice meant to me. I'll never forget his kindness and how he was confident in my abilities long before I was.

3:34 pm  
Anonymous Federica Maraboli said...

I'm saddened to hear this news. Charles was one of my profs at Ryerson nearly a decade ago - and one of my favourites. He was always kind, generous with advice, very supportive and had a genuine desire to help me navigate my way into the industry. His magazine editing course was the most influential to my career today and I've drawn from his advice often.
My condolences to his family.

2:20 pm  
Anonymous Todd Latham said...

I was shocked and saddened to see his 2/3 page obit in today's Globe & Mail. But it is indeed fitting that a Canadian magazine editor of his stature got such a tribute in the national press - he deserved that recognition and more. I am proud to have known him and served on his advisory board at Ryerson. I propose that Magazines Canada set up a scholarship and/or special award in his name... I'd be the first to make a donation and volunteer to help.

2:55 pm  
Anonymous David Hayes said...

Charles was first an older (than me) colleague I met in the late '80s, then a mentor & friend. He was filled with knowledge (of writing, editing, the business in general & many other things) & shared it generously. He gave me many tips on teaching, especially when I made the transition from faculty at Ryerson's journalism school to Continuing Ed. I'll certainly miss him, as will so many others.

11:28 pm  
Anonymous c_pioro said...

Charles believed that there was a place for me in magazines long before I did. In my world of magazines he is the ideal, an inspiration and a guide. I am grateful to have been in his class. Thank you Charles.

But more importantly, to his family, my most honest sympathy goes out to you. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

12:19 am  
Anonymous Chris Wendland said...

He rolled his way to class and taught with an oxygen tank by his side; he participated in a conference call two days before he died; he continually reinvented himself from producer to editor to teacher. Most of all, he knew that despite all adversity, you keep going on, you always have a goal, a dream, a reason to get up in the morning. How blessed Mechthild was to have had such a partner in her life for so long and Anja to have such an amazing role model for a father.

1:59 pm  
Anonymous Greg MacNeil said...

Charles worked with us at Multi-Vision Publishing on a variety of assignments.

He was a smart, likeable, kind and gentle man.

12:11 pm  
Anonymous Joy McLaughlin said...

I worked with Charles for several years at IE:Money magazine. I was saddened to read the news only today as posted in the Toronto Star.
He was truly a lovely man. I will remember his kindness and generousity of spirit. My sympathies to his family and friends.

9:40 pm  
Blogger Camilla said...

Charles was one of the first editors to assign me a freelance story. Although I was relatively untried, he was kind, supportive and never condescending. A wonderful man and my heart goes out to Mechtild and Anja.

3:45 pm  
Blogger Maria said...

Thank you Charles for your legacy.

I spoke with Charles only a few times over 4 years. At the beginning of the course his input was invaluable in my deciding to actually take the magazine and web publishing program. I had no idea he was so ill for so long. May he be at peace now. May whoever takes his place be as committed as he was.

2:04 pm  

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