By Jonathan Phelps
---- — As the editor of the Salem Evening News, Jim Stommen was passionate about life on the North Shore — and very serious about grammar.
He would often pound his desk after reading a mistake, no matter what publication it was in, his wife, Joan, recalled yesterday.
Stommen, who was editor of The Salem Evening News from 1978 until 1985 and lived in Ipswich during those years, died unexpectedly Monday in his home in Alpharetta, Ga. He was 70.
He prided himself on never having missed a deadline, and completed a freelance piece on time the day he died, Joan Stommen said.
“He worked all day Sunday and Monday morning,” she said. “He lay down for a nap after he filed his story and never woke up.”
Stommen came to The Salem News after a brief stint as managing editor of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer in Kentucky.
“He finally had a chance to be the editor,” Joan Stommen said. He had started his journalism career as a business editor at the Kalamazoo Gazette in Michigan in 1965.
The couple met while working for Western Michigan University’s student newspaper, the Western Herald. They were married for 47 years and had two children, Treg and Tracy.
Joan Stommen worked as a teacher at Doyon Elementary School in Ipswich while they lived in town.
“We loved the little downtown life,” she said. “We took the train a lot into Salem or North Station.”
Stommen was also passionate about college football — rooting for the University of Michigan — and coaching youth hockey in Ipswich. He’d coach early morning practices in Newburyport before heading into the newsroom in Salem.
After eight years, the family moved back to Michigan and eventually to Georgia, where Stommen worked as a freelance journalist for the Washington Post. He later helped to start an English-language newspaper in Aruba.
He retired in 2009 from working for AHC Media, as managing editor of medical journals for health care professionals. But that didn’t stop him from writing.
“He did a lot of writing and a lot of assignments,” Joan Stommen said. “He said he never missed a deadline.”
In January, the family gathered to celebrate his 70th birthday.
“That is all we talked about — our life in Ipswich and Salem,” Joan Stommen said. “Those were some of our fondest memories.”
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.