Another World War II veteran died last week. This news is depressing but hardly surprising since according to the U.S. Veterans Administration, these members of America’s Greatest Generation are passing from the scene at an average of 492 a day.
But last week’s passing of Albert E. Sylvia Sr. at the age of 91 was special, because Mr. Sylvia was family. As the founder, owner and publisher of the North Reading Transcript for 56 years and the Lynnfield Villager for nearly 40 years, Al Sylvia was the reason why both towns have their own distinct weekly newspapers and why you’re reading this paper now.
Like millions of his generational cohorts, he grew up poor in the Great Depression, fought in the most horrific war the world has ever known and returned home to the U.S. to marry and raise a family in the suburbs.
But Al Sylvia didn’t stop there. He continued his education and became a respected state scientist. And when he saw a need for greater transparency and accountability in his adopted hometown of North Reading, founded the Transcript, North Reading’s first sustained local newspaper.
Mr. Sylvia was sui generis, one of a kind. He was a staunch supporter of North Reading’s Open Town Meeting, where he was a regular and vocal participant until well into his 80’s. He was never afraid to speak out on local issues and tangle, if necessary, with local officials or put them on the spot, especially Selectmen. He and his wife Frances sustained the Transcript through its formative, financially challenged years with sheer determination until the town grew enough to comfortably support a weekly paper. The paper’s future was assured when their two children, Al Jr. and Kathy, followed their parents into the family business and its subsequent expansion into the town of Lynnfield.
For the next 50 years, Mr. Sylvia was never too busy to give back to the community in other numerous ways, writing many of North Reading’s bylaws, serving on the Historic District Commission, serving as president of the Massachusetts Press Association and mentoring a lengthy succession of journalism students from Northeastern University who arrived completely green behind the ears, often needing a map to find North Reading or Lynnfield.
He believed in America and in these two small towns, and he would have been very pleased to know that the Transcript and Villager continue today as an independent community voice under the ownership of the Dolbeare family.
Another World War II veteran died last week. We shall not see his like again.