Thanks to many of you and to our team, Vol. II of 'Our Country Called' quite a tribute

July 01, 2007|By JOHN LEAGUE

Book publishing has been one of the more rewarding projects we have taken on at The Herald-Mail, primarily because we've gotten to meet many of you.

All of our books have been about Hagerstown and Washington County, and most have been made possible only through the contributions of our readers, their friends and families.

Our first book project, the first in "Our Past Our People" series, featured hundreds of photos submitted by readers from across the area.

When Michele Wills, The Herald-Mail's marketing director and de facto book publisher, began our book projects, we didn't know if we would get a trickle or an outpouring of interest.


We were surprised, if not shocked, by the large, enthusiastic response.

Perhaps the most rewarding part for our staff has been meeting many of you whose photos and stories made the books possible, and helped us paint a picture of our area's rich heritage.

The success of the first "Our Past Our People" book paled in comparison to the hundreds of veterans and their families who contributed to the two volumes of "Our Country Called," an idea Michele had and we decided to run with.

On July 10, volume II of "Our Country Called: A Tribute to Washington County Servicemen and Servicewomen" will be released.

It is 328 pages of information about people who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms. As a newspaper publisher, the importance of protecting those freedoms hits home every day when we flip the switch to start the press.

The book, as far as we know, is the only documented history of our local veterans, with stories and photos supplied by veterans and their families.

Michele assembled quite a team to produce "Our Country Called."

Deb Lanzendorfer handled the graphic design and layout, and also conducted a majority of the interviews. Deb is skilled at what she does.

Deadlines aren't easy when you're publishing a book because there's always a half-dozen more things you can do, or want to do. Deb often looked beat at the end of a long day because she always managed to get those half-dozen things completed.

Susan Snyder was the jack-of-all-trades. She solicited photos, interviewed veterans, catalogued photos, handled mailings, dispatched phone calls and did just about everything else that otherwise might have fallen through the cracks. She kept hundreds of photos and files organized.

Susan and Deb are full-time employees of The Herald-Mail. Michele also reunited three former employees who had left their mark on our company during their first tours of duty.

Editor Marie Lanser Beck put her heart and soul into the "Our Country Called" project, researching, interviewing, writing and editing.

Years ago, Marie was a city-side reporter while I was a reporter in our Charles Town, W.Va., bureau. She was as tireless and determined a professional then as she has been with our books. She taught me that you didn't have to be a jerk to be an excellent reporter.

Contributing writers Dennis Shaw and Gloria Dahlhamer also have a history with the newspaper.

Dennis and I worked together for about 10 years. When I first joined The Morning Herald, Dennis was a wire editor. He eventually became managing editor of The Daily Mail, the top newsroom post. He was my counterpart when I held the same position on The Morning Herald, back when we had two staffs that competed daily for news. Dennis and I competed, but the competition was never personal. Dennis also was one of the better copy editors that passed through our doors.

Gloria was a longtime Lifestyle editor, a job she made look easy when it was anything but. She also was one of our most gifted writers, and this was the first time since her retirement that we managed to get her writing for us again.

Marie, Dennis and Gloria are class acts, and having them around The Herald-Mail again was, in my mind, a huge, unintended benefit.

I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly thank our book team for a job well done - again.

John League is editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7073, or by e-mail at

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