Since the Washington Post was sold to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos there has been a process of letting go—the latest step being a private farewell gathering held last night for Post Company chairman and CEO Donald Graham in a room on the ground floor of the Post’s 15th Street, Northwest, building where the presses once stood.
Among the current and former Post employees in attendance was Brian Noyes, a former art director for the Post who now owns and operates the Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Virginia. Here’s his report, sent to Washingtonian in an e-mail:
“The RSVPs added up to 643, but many, many more faces from the past who weren’t on the list were there to hear a reporter from each decade of Don’s tenure stand up to make remarks about those ten years and to offer a toast along with all of us. Finally Don was introduced but, from stage left, John Harris [a former Post reporter, now editor in chief of Politico] appeared dressed in Don’s actual sport coat (obtained from Don’s wife) and sweater and did a spot-on impersonation of Don—and the real Don couldn’t stop laughing.
“Finally big Don got up, and in a moving conversation from the heart talked about his life there, moving from Vietnam to a DC cop street beat to a reporter position on the sports desk.
“At one point Don pointed out ‘the big guy in the front row,’ who was, of course, Ben Bradlee. Ben stood up and started waving his arms in the air, Rocky-style, to huge applause—it was the first we’ve seen of Ben in a long while. Later Don mentioned him again, asked him to stand up, and Ben—now with a microphone in his hand—started speaking [about] how those were his happiest days and then broke down after getting out those words, and we were all crying.
“It was one hell of a happy get-together for everyone who had worked at the Post over the years, knowing that that room held some huge legends working together in a way that won’t ever be duplicated*. I was standing near Ben as the speeches were over, and I shadowed him for a while just taking in the sweet, happy, reunions as former staffers quickly approached him—and his deep, barking voice was animated and magical, and we ate it up like ice cream.”
Graham was presented with a plaque that will go in a Post elevator. It reads: “On this elevator Don Graham greeted Post employees by name 806,132 times from 1972 to 2013.” We don’t know who did the math, but we’ll go with it.
*Here’s the RSVP list, if you want to look for some familiar names in Washington Post history.