Written by Ellen R. Delisio Friday, 29 January 2010 00:00
At the recent memorial service for Damon “Dave” Mock, I heard stories about the fine man Dave was and his work at CBS radio and other venues. But I have fixed in my mind the Damon (I never learned to call him Dave, which irked him, and rightly so) I knew from our days at The Westbury Times together: the teenager bursting with talent and enthusiasm who seemed eager to get his life and career started.
I inherited Damon when I came to the Times in April 1985. He wrote a column about Westbury High School, “A View from the Bridge,” and spent as much time in the office as he possibly could. I sometimes found neatly typed notes on my desk: “If my mother calls, I wasn’t here today. I wasn’t here yesterday. You haven’t seen me all week.”
I admired his writing ability even then; in one column, he brought together a controversy at the high school with a debate over the national school lunch program: “Is Graffiti Art? Is Catsup a Vegetable?”
He walked everywhere and I still remember his phone calls – I think he knew the location of every pay phone in Nassau County: “Hi, boss, just checking in. Do you need anything?”
Damon was a tireless worker who made me the envy of every other editor in the Anton chain. I dreaded the annual year-in-review stories that then were the anchors of the holiday editions. Knowing this, Damon would gleefully collect a year’s worth of newspapers, spread them out on a desk and get the story done while I was sighing with relief.
He sometimes was a better judge of my work than I was. I entered the Press Club of Long Island contest numerous times, but won only one award, first place for education coverage by a weekly newspaper, and only after I had left the paper. When I told the Press Club I never entered the contest, I found out Damon had selected the stories and entered for me.
He also was considerate beyond his years; he often trooped out to get me soup when I wasn’t feeling well, or would drape his sport coat over my shoulders when it was chilly in the office – and even then it was almost to my knees. And sometimes, I’d be standing somewhere lost in thought and he would come up behind me and rest his chin on the top of my head, I think to prove he could and as a sign of solidarity.
During my almost four years at the Times, I relied on him more and more, often having to remind myself that he was a high school and later a college student. When I left the Times and Long Island to pursue my dream of being a daily newspaper reporter, and he was named my successor, I extracted a promise from him to finish his college degree. Although he didn’t keep that promise, his career choices seem to have served him well.
We got back in touch two years ago and exchanged some emails; I told Damon I was writing for an education website and adopting a baby and he said he was excited for me. He was a bit nostalgic as well. “I will always have a fondness in my heart for the years you and I spent at The Westbury Times,” he wrote.
I hope Damon knew I shared that fondness, a feeling that has been rekindled the past few weeks as I remember him and how we started our careers together. Godspeed, Dave. We were a good team.
Ellen R. Delisio
(Editor’s Note: Ellen R. Delisio was editor of The Westbury Times from April 1985 to February 1989. She currently resides in Middletown, CT with her 2-year-old son Gabriel and works as a freelance writer.)