Edwin O'connor: 1918-1968

“I’m just interested in human beings,” Ed O’Connor used to say. More than that, he loved human beings. And those who knew him loved him for his wit and warmth, for his very large talent, and above all, for his good and gentle nature. Boston became his spiritual home, and the Atlantic. we are proud to say, became his club. In the nine years of his free-lancing, when he supported himself as a newspaper critic of radio, counting every penny, his home was a furnished room on Marlborough Street — a few steps from our door. He formed the habit of dropping by on his return from breakfast and again before or after lunch. He would deliver a marvelous story with a mimicry that was devastating but never unkind, or shift his big frame into a brief soft-shoe to the humming of keep working, keep singing America Or he might rillle the stacks of books awaiting review, complaining about the low caliber of a new novel or urging attention to some new but yet to be celebrated young talent.

So Ed walked into our lives and into our hearts. The Atlantic meant to him what it did to us. We prized — came to rely on — his golden humor. his love for people of every sort, his integrity, and his simple decency in these days of self-indulgence and excess. Esteem, success, prizes came in abundance, but he never lost his modesty. When The Last Hurrah had won the Atlantic Prize contest and been selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club, and his days of penny-pinching were over, Ed sauntered into the office of one of our editors with a penny in his hand. See this, Louise,” he said, this is what I care for money!” and he spun it out a window. She retrieved it and has it in her desk drawer still.

We mourn for his good wife, for his devoted stepson, and for ourselves. His death on March 23 at the age of forty-nine, with great work still to be done, was a death in this family.