A pile of nearly 400 letters written by her family members and discovered when she was a teenager has been in the back of Rita Isaacson’s mind for the past several decades. It is one of many reasons why she has made the decision to step down as the Managing Editor of The Granby Drummer, which was announced in October’s issue. There are other reasons, as well, such as wanting to travel more with her husband David who recently retired, spend more time with the grandkids, and work on her and David’s families’ genealogy, but the letters project is compelling. We’ll get to that in a bit, but first let’s go back to the beginning.
Before coming to Granby, Rita had an interesting variety of jobs. In her home state of Ohio, she managed print production of several magazines; in Indiana, she marketed orthopedic implants; and she did freelance publication design and covered public affairs for local government in Florida. In the summer of 2000, David’s corporate relocation caused the couple to move to Granby. Their realtor told Rita about the Drummer and suggested volunteering. It was clear that her talents were just what the paper needed; her skill in layout was extraordinary. After helping out for five years, she was asked to be the managing editor, and in 2006 she accepted the offer.
During the past 16 years, the paper has benefited tremendously from not only her technical skills and her artistic eye, but also from her ability to get along with everyone—staff, contributors, volunteers, and town officials. She has been the calm in many a storm over the years. She is unflappable, the steady hand whenever one was needed. When asked what she liked best about the job, she replied, “Getting to know Granby and the people who make it the great hometown that it is.”
Now, let’s get back to those letters that Rita discovered when she was a teenager. They were written by her paternal great-grandmother, grand aunt, grandmother and grandfather. They were bundled up in an old trunk in her grandparents’ attic; the earliest ones written in 1903 when her grandmother moved away from home to teach in a nearby town. Although the letters written back and forth between her grandmother and great-grandmother were interesting enough, it was the 75 courtship letters written between her grandparents in the space of about 10 months that were the most fascinating.
When Rita’s dad passed in 2001 in Ohio, she retrieved the letters out of the closet in her old bedroom and read one aloud to her seven siblings, their spouses and all the grandchildren. Those gathered wanted another read, then another, and another. It was decided that the letters should be transcribed into an easy-to-read format for all the family to have. Although a couple siblings offered to help with the transcription, life got in the way as it does for busy families and the project lay dormant for 20 years.
Two years ago Rita hired a friend to at last transcribe all the letters. Now she is compelled to finish what she calls The Letters Project. “At nearly 200,000 words, the size of three average novels, it’s going to take a lot of work,” she notes.
When asked about other plans, her first response was, “I’ll volunteer at the Drummer!” That surely is music to the ears of the staff, but they shouldn’t count on her being around all the time for she and David have some important travel plans. They will be taking a bike and boat trip in Croatia in May and will also be visiting David’s family in the United Kingdom.
In addition to travel and The Letters Project, Rita looks forward to more time spent on one of her other hobbies, ancestry. Since she was a child, she’s been fascinated by her family tree and can spend hours tracing various lines of both her and David’s ancestors.
Above all else, Rita is devoted to family. Two of her and David’s children live nearby, much to her delight. Daughter Lindsey and her partner Matt live in West Hartford; son Scott and his wife April and children Shaun, Skyler and Lucas live in West Granby. Son Tom lives in California. Rita notes that when their children were young, she never looked forward to the days they would leave the nest because she loved having them around. She now feels the same about the grandsons. “They are growing up so fast and I don’t want to miss a minute of it.”
It’s a comfort to know that although Rita is retiring as managing editor, she will be popping in to lend a hand from time to time. We thank her and congratulate her on a job more than well done, and wish her many happy years of adventures, and above all, success with The Letters Project.