January 6th, 2008
Old Redwoods and Green Saplings
By John Ensslin
A few weeks ago, the gardener recommended assigning the youngest member of your chapter write a profile of one of the oldest members.
In Colorado, that translated to a meeting between Aaron Hedge, a journalism student at Colorado State University and Ron McGaffin, a Fort Collins man who came from a family of journalists in Nebraska.
Here is the story that Aaron wrote for an upcoming edition of the Colorado SPJ newsletter. The value of this piece is more than just a story. It’s a way for one generation of journalists to connect and learn from an older generation.
By Aaron Hedge
Looking at Ron McGaffin, a sweet 91-year-old patron of Columbine Health System who uses a walker to get between the bathroom and the kitchen, one wouldn’t guess he had an illustrious career as a military photographer..
Photographing everything from prestigious war figures, like Winston Churchill and his good friend Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar bin Abdulaziz, to puppies sleeping in shoes, McGaffin continued his family’s journalistic legacy during World War II taking photos for the army.
He signed up for a membership with Sigma Delta Chi in 1936 and has been a member of what is now the Society of Professional Journalists ever since.
Since then he has photographed Presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt along with a slew of other prestigious figures.
One of his favorite assignments was an Edward R. Murrow interview with George S. Patton.
McGaffin has taken photographs for the Army, Stars and Stripes newspaper, Northrop and McDonnell/Douglas. He also served as manager of Government Relations for Northrop in Saudi Arabia from 1972 to 1995, when he moved to Fort Collins at the age of 89.
But his real passion lies not with military photography, but with dogs.
When an SPJ reporter asked him what his favorite photo he had ever taken was, he pointed to his apartment wall without hesitation at a photo of a puppy sleeping between his combat boots that he took in Europe during World War II.
“I bought him … for a pack of Lucky Strikes,” he said of the animal. “Thank God for the Humane Society. They let me bring back to the states.”
McGaffin now lives in Fort Collins, has a wife (who “made the mistake of coming into the darkroom one time,” when they first met at Northrop) and three children.
Garden Center Tip of the Week
Start your next chapter board meeting with a report on the current number of members as well as the number from the previous month. Also read out loud the names of new members.
This is a good quick way for board members to keep track of how their chapter is growing or shrinking.
SPJ by the numbers
Membership this week 8,821
Membership one month ago 9,150
Membership one year ago 8,755