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Meet Jud Hale …Winni Islander

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - February 11, 2013

There’s something to be said for holding down the same job for years. It gives one a sense of continuity and commitment to the job that cannot be disputed.

That’s the way it has been for Jud Hale (“please remember it’s spelled with just one ‘d’ ”, he reminds me). Jud has been a part of Yankee magazine and the Old Farmer’s Almanac for many years and he has no plans to retire.

“As long as I can make it up the stairs, I will be here,” he laughs as he describes the route to his office at Yankee Publishing in Dublin, NH.

Jud could probably walk the entire office with his eyes closed; he knows every inch of the building because he’s been there since the 1950s. If anyone had told him way back then that he would spend his working life involved in Yankee and that the job would bring him fame as he saw the publication through times both smooth and rough, he would have laughed in disbelief.

“My mother’s brother, Robb Sagendorph, started Yankee in 1935. He wasn’t a particularly outstanding writer or a businessman, but he was a genius at knowing what people wanted to read. He thought there should be a magazine about New England and he wanted to preserve that culture,” Jud recalls.

In the first issue, Robb wrote, “”Yankee is born today. His destiny is the expression and perhaps indirectly the preservation of that great culture in which every Yankee was born and by which every Yank must live. Give him your care, your interest, your heart…”

Jud landed the job at Yankee (“my first job was to take out the trash and make up reader letters,” he says) after he got out of the Army. “I was looking for a job and my mother said to call her brother Robb; he ran a little magazine called Yankee and he might find a job for me.

“Uncle Robb hired me,” he continues, “and I expected I would be at the magazine for no more than a year. But I got married and I loved the area. The job turned into a career and then it turned into my life.”

Robb Sagendorph passed away in 1970. In his career, he grew Yankee from a small publication to a national magazine. Along the way, he gained fame and even did television appearances. The charm of the magazine caught on: people bought subscriptions to Yankee as Christmas gifts and many had a New England connection. That is still the case today.

On his deathbed Robb called his son-in-law, Rob Trowbridge, and his nephew Jud to share important news. He told Rob to take over the business side of Yankee and Jud would handle the editorial end of things. It was then that Jud became the editor of Yankee and the Old Farmer’s Almanac. “He told us not to grow the company any larger,” Jud remembers. “when we asked him why, he said because the plumbing wouldn’t take it!”

That wry New England humor was a part of Robb’s personality and it is also one of Jud’s charms. Although Jud is officially retired after years of working 10-12 hour days and weekends, he still goes to the office each day and continues to write the popular House for Sale column for Yankee.

Since retirement, Jud and his wife Sally take interesting road trips, such as up the coast of Maine. They also maintain a summer home on a Lake Winnipesaukee island. Their children grew up on the lake, working at local stores, marinas and restaurants as teens. Jud speaks fondly of the area, and has no plans to give up their summer island home.

“In 1971 I was contacted by a friend, telling me of a property on a Lake Winnipesaukee island. He said it would make a great House for Sale story. We fell in love with the place and bought it. My wife spent entire summers there with the kids. I traveled up on Friday nights and stayed til Monday mornings. The house was built in about 1965; we’ve added on because the kids are still enthusiastic and love to spend time there with their kids.”

Jud has observed some changes in the Lakes Region in the last few years, primarily that there seems to be less boat traffic than previously. “But a lot hasn’t changed, such as the beautiful sunset from our cottage,” he adds.

Yankee magazine also has changed over the years. The size of the magazine has altered and one of Jud’s long-time writer friends, Mel Allen, is now the editor. (Jud and Mel have worked together for over 25 years and Jud credits Mel with having many, many great story ideas.)

While much has changed, some things are just about the same as the early days of Yankee. “The editorial meetings are similar. We still have to have fresh, entertaining and informative ideas for stories. We have to come up with stuff people want to read,” Jud says. “We have to please the readers with every issue. I never got sick of it in all the years I was editor.”

Each issue brings back memories for Jud; he says when he picks up a 1984 issue, for example, it’s like opening a family album. He is reminded to the writers and the challenges the staff experienced with every issue and all the people he met.

The challenges for Yankee will get no smaller, because the company just purchased a group of magazines from McLean Communications. The challenge does not frighten Jud, who says it’s an exciting time. “If we are successful, who knows, we might acquire more? We don’t have any plans to stop. The business in now in the third generation.”

Jud reflects, when asked what his Uncle Robb would think of the business today. “He would be so proud. Proud of what we’ve done and very proud of his grandson Jamie Trowbridge, who is now president and CEO. Jamie runs the business and he has done a fabulous job. He’s smart and very diplomatic.”

Undoubtedly Jud’s Uncle Rob would be pretty proud and impressed with the love and care his nephew has put into Yankee over the years. Jud could have stuck to his original plan and moved on long ago, but he found a life and fulfilling work with that little New England magazine started so long ago.

And what about the time when he can’t make it up those office stairs any longer? (Jud laughs when it’s pointed out to him he just might not be 21 any longer!)

Most likely the staff would find a way to get their editor-in-chief to work each day. Jud has earned their respect and caring over the years; there is indeed something to be said for holding down the same job for a lifetime. 

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