Lew Cuyler (1933-2017): Newspaper Man, Rower, Author

8 November 2017

Göran R Buckhorn writes:

Ernestine Bayer book coverThe other day, I heard the sad news that Lew Cuyler had passed away on 3 November, age 84. I only met Lew a couple of times. The first time was in the mid-2000s at the G. W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport, where he did research for his book on the female rowing pioneer Ernestine Bayer. His biography Ernestine Bayer: Mother of U.S. Women’s Rowing was published in 2006. Lew also showed up at some of the Rowing History Forums (in Henley last weekend named Rowing History Conference), which were organised by rowing historian Bill Miller at Mystic Seaport. When I got to know Lew, he had already retired from the newspaper world, which for him was The Berkshire Eagle, published in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Lew sent me some of the newsletters he wrote for Berkshire Sculling Association, later Berkshire Rowing and Sculling Society (BRASS), an organisation he had founded in 1995, the year he retired from The Berkshire Eagle. He also called me at the office and we at length chatted about rowing – there was no mistake that Lew was extremely enthusiastic about rowing and sculling.

Lew Cuyler

Lew Cuyler was born in 1933 in New York City. He went to South Kent School in Connecticut and Amherst College, where he graduated in 1955. Not surprisingly, he rowed at both schools. In 1958, Lew started working for The North Adams Transcript. He would eventually become the newspaper’s executive editor. Lew also taught journalism at both the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and North Adams State College (the latter now called the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts). In 1980, Lew left The Transcript when the paper’s new management wanted him to lay off a number of the staff at the paper; he couldn’t simple fire people. Thereafter, he ran his own business, Cuyler Ink, where he offered freelance writing.

In 1987, when The Berkshire Eagle changed from an evening to a morning paper and started a Sunday edition, the management wanted a strong business section, whereupon Lew was hired as the paper’s business editor. Grier Horner, former managing editor of the Eagle, who shared an apartment with Lew when they were both working for The Transcript in the early 1960s, told a reporter from the Eagle for his obituary on Sunday, ‘He was the fastest typist I’ve ever seen. Remember those carriages that typewriters used to have? He would give that thing such a slam that I thought it was going to hit me.’

Lew wrote long, detailed stories that were almost impossible for the editors to edit. D. R. Bahlman, a former Eagle co-worker of Lew’s, said in an interview about Lew, that this would create the ‘Cuyler yard’. ‘It was a story that was literally a yard long. The editors found it very difficult to cut because it hung together so well. It was difficult to do it without creating damage.’

When Lew was the Eagle’s business editor, he befriended a young reporter on the paper, Daniel Pearl, who later would become the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia bureau chief. In February 2002, Pearl was abducted and killed in Pakistan, which Lew took very hard.

When Lew retired from The Eagle in 1995, he took up rowing again, forming the Berkshire Rowing and Sculling Association. Four years later, he established the Berkshire Sculling Association’s board of trustees. With the blessing from the city of Pittsfield, a boathouse was built out of an unused lifeguard shack on Onota Lake. In 2001, ‘the shack’ was transformed into the ‘Cuyler Boathouse’. In 2014, Lew was the first recipient of Lake Onota Preservation Association’s Devoted Service Award. As the chairman of the public relations and education committee for Lake Onota Preservation Association, he published the association’s quarterly newsletter, The Guardian.

Despite Lew’s many accomplishments both in the newspaper world and in the rowing world, he was a humble man. Both these worlds have lost a true gentleman.

HTBS editor’s note: Most of the information about Lew Cuyler’s newspaper career is from an obituary in The Berkshire Eagle by Tony Dobrowolski published on 5 November.

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