Rupert is the nickname I had for the beloved BBP town Santa Claus, Tom Reid.
The publisher of the Bayport-Blue Point and Sayville Gazettes, Rupert (cheekily called that by me for being a rascally newspaper publisher, but more scrupulous than Rupert Murdoch) died earlier this month, and the community collectively felt a beloved, whimsical spirit slip away.
When I first met Rupert, I was introduced to a jovial, humorous man at a Bayport-Blue Point Chamber meeting by local power broker, Bryn Elliott, who wanted to help me start my career in writing.
Previously, I had only written legal briefs anonymously and soullessly as a paralegal for corporate middle management and government bureaucrats to read, and I was terrified to be writing under my own name.
Rupert, upon hearing I was an aspiring writer, offered me a job at the Bayport-Blue Point Gazette because I “seem[ed] like such a nice kid” and gave me full, free rein to cover what I wanted—a freedom that was so generous artistically and integral to me finding my voice.
Connecting people to each other to help was something that was deep-seated in Rupert’s spirit; he always found a way to help a starting business become part of the deep fabric that made up the BBP community. Whenever a new business owner joined the chamber, Rupert was one of the first people to go up to them and let them know the ins and outs of BBP. His company, AGC Printing, did most of the business cards, stationery, and signage for members of the chamber.
He actually coined the phrase, “Two towns, one community,” a credo that has buoyed BBP through rough times and tragedies.
Every month, we had a meeting about articles I would do and he would give me a list of what he wanted covered, but never actually would check to see if I did.
He joked that he would “have to start reading more closely” when I told him I was adding social commentary to the paper, but he always trusted in me to do right by the community, as he had always done and taught me to do as well.
A jokester at heart, Rupert always had the most irreverent responses to “serious” chamber business, like the time the school district made a presentation to the chamber on low enrollment issues affecting the town, and Rupert said, “That’s easy to fix; let’s just only sell houses to Catholics.”
Once, wanting to be modern and sensitive, Rupert called me asking, as the nearest Asian person he knew, if he could continue to call the chaos at the lineup of floats at the BBP St. Pat’s parade a “Chinese fire drill.”
When Rupert fell ill, he maintained his characteristic cheerfulness and sense of humor, often joking that he was “given a second chance” because he “needed to cause more trouble.”
He died on Sept. 6. He was the grandfather I always wanted, and his death has felt that way to many in the community—the loss of someone who only had warm-heartedness and good humor to share.
For many, he will be remembered as the kind, funny man who always sought the punch line in life, but for me, he will always be my Rupert.
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