Memory eternal, for Stolzi

tour htm txt IMG 8963Just before I left for vacation, I dashed off a short GetReligion item about that Newsweek cover story that promised to offer the inside scoop, the real story, of President George W. Bush's tense trip to Russian for the G8 summit. I was struck that the story was completely faith-free. So I wrote:

There were no prayer meetings on Air Force One and, apparently, the reporters and photographers had total access. There is no religion in this story at all, which feels rather strange, with the Bush image and all of that. Did the Bible-thumping, power-praying president manage to go God-free for four days?

I chuckled later in the day when one of this blog's most faithful readers chimed in with this gentle dig:

Well, you know, a certain famous person (Bush's favorite philosopher) DID enjoin his followers to pray in private ...

Posted by Stolzi at 8:02 pm on July 28, 2006

I was shocked, days later, to receive an urgent email from a journalist friend that Mary "Stolzi" Stolzenbach had suffered a severe head injury in a fall and was in a coma. She died on Thursday afternoon, leaving her family and friends stunned.

Mary was not a journalist. She was a soft-spoken and witty lady of 70 or thereabouts who was a dedicated reader of all kinds of print media, fiction and nonfiction, including newspapers -- when they didn't drive her crazy. Since she lived in the Nashville area, she had an intense love-hate, laugh-to-keep-from-crying relationship with The Tennessean, one of the flagship newspapers in the Gannett empire.

Nashville is a very important religion town and, to state it bluntly, Stolzi didn't think her local newspaper "got" religion. Thus, she was constantly sending me little notes about religion stories in the Nashville area, including a few that made it into the newspaper -- like the recent Greek Orthodoxy conference at Opryland. She even caught an error in one of those stories that I missed:

I had to laugh at one sentence in the article.

'Individual Greek Orthodox churches operate independently ...'

Individual bishops would be surprised to hear this.

Posted by Stolzi at 6:14 pm on July 24, 2006

Mary was very kind with her criticisms. But she did take her faith very seriously and, as a result, she cared deeply about mainstream coverage of religion news. I first met her a decade ago when she was invited by a friend into a small cyber-circle of journalists and friends of journalists, who shared quips and feedback each day via email -- often focusing on trends and events in religion news. We called ourselves the Pogos, as in "We have met the enemy and he is us." Through the years, that online forum evolved into other email lists until, finally, it was one of the inspirations for this weblog.

Stolzi knew she wasn't a journalist, but she was interested in journalism -- from the smallest typo to a broken URL on a GetReligion story that bugged her. She even liked journalists, which is a good thing since her priest at St. Ignatius Orthodox Church (pictured) is Father Stephen Rogers, who was a journalist before he entered the priesthood. When my family converted to Orthodoxy, back in our Tennessee days, Stolzi stood with us as an honorary sponsor.

What else can I say?

Journalists out there: Try to find yourself some good non-journalist friends who love to read and care about the craft of journalism. It helps if they are gentle and kind, yet more than a little skeptical about the news that they read day after day. You will find them in unusual places and some will simply pop into your life without warning. Believers call this "grace."

Memory eternal, Stolzi. Memory eternal.

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