MARCH 8, 2018 – From time to time at the Jewish Journal, usually right before the paper would go to press, a cry would come from the office’s main conference room: “I’ve got a doozy!”
Anyone who has worked at the Journal in recent years will recognize these words as the rallying cry of Jerome “Jerry” Ogan, a volunteer who proofread for the Jewish Journal for over two decades. When “Mr. Red Pen,” as he came to be known, identified a doozy – in other words, a particularly egregious error in spelling or punctuation – people came running to see what exactly he had found.
“He had real eagle eyes,” said Shelley Sackett, a former editor of the Journal. “Nothing got by him.” Ogan, who was an attorney by trade, took great pleasure in finding small, obscure errors and marking them up with his famous red pen. Sackett, also an attorney, considered Ogan a personal friend and fondly remembered the spirited discussions his edits would sometimes spark, particularly on the subject of commas.
“I called him the ‘Comma King’ because he would insert all these commas into the copy, many of which I’d omit,” said Sackett. “He had an intense relationship with grammar, and we both loved the sport of debate.”
Ogan passed away on Feb. 25 after an extended illness. He was 90.
Born on Nov. 11, 1927 in Lynn to Nathan and Bertha Ogan, Ogan enjoyed a carefree childhood in Lynn. As an only child, “he was the apple of his folks’ eyes,” remembers his wife, Lois Ogan. He attended Lynn English High School, then Boston University, and finally Boston University Law School. After law school, he joined his father’s Lynn law practice.
In 1954, he married Lois Karp, and in 1956, the two bought a house in Marblehead, where they lived for over 60 years. The two shared a long and happy marriage that included travel to almost every corner of the world. In later years, they invited their children and grandchildren to join them. On many of his trips, Ogan brought along a copy of the Jewish Journal and posed with it in front of an international landmark, knowing that such a picture would guarantee his photo in the paper.
Taking the Jewish Journal on a grand tour of the world certainly was not Ogan’s only service to the Jewish community. He was the Master of the Mt. Sinai Lodge, which was the first Jewish Masonic Lodge on the North Shore. He was also a longtime member of the Temple Israel board and served as president of the synagogue’s Brotherhood.
Ogan’s deep ties to the community made him an effective fact-checker. “He knew everybody, everything, every date – he was involved in so many events,” said Yulia Zhorov, who worked with him at the Journal for many years. According to Zhorov, Ogan wasn’t simply concerned with finding spelling and punctuation errors. He also served as a fact-checker and resident expert on the Jewish community. “He was essential in getting all the names and dates correct. If he noticed someone missing in the group photo, and he didn’t know their name, he would call the temple.” He was partially worried, according to Zhorov, that if he missed any mistake, he’d have his wife to answer to.
Ogan took his proofreading skills with him everywhere. “He was the grammar police,” remembers his daughter Debbie Fendell. “If I said, ‘can I have some ice cream?’ he would say, ‘You can, but you may not!’ He would also hand his grandchildren a piece of paper and ask them to find the mistake.” Even though his children needed to make sure to double-check their emails and postcards before sending them to him, they remember him as a loving and devoted father and grandfather who never missed a play, recital, or sports game.
Aside from proofreading and traveling, Ogan liked to play tennis, cards, do crossword puzzles, and tell jokes. “He had a story for everything,” said Fendell, who was one of many to note her father’s subtle, wry humor. “He would always start off his stories by saying, ‘stop me if you’ve heard this one before.’”
Ogan is survived by his wife Lois (Karp) Ogan of Salem, his daughters Margery Shapiro of Salem and Deborah Fendell of Natick and husband Dennis; his grandchildren Melissa Moschitto and husband Patrick, Allison Conway and husband Michael, Brian Farnsworth and wife Renee, Jonathan Farnsworth, and Brian Fendell and wife Naomi, and his great-grandchildren, Lila and Nora Moschitto and Wesley Farnsworth.