Stuart Dim brought sophistication, warmth, curiosity and a love of the language from New York City to Charlotte when he arrived in 1972 as an assistant metro editor at the Observer.
"He was part of a group of editors who helped set the stage for the journalism awards that were won in Charlotte in the 1980s," former Observer editor Rich Oppel said.
"He was an exacting editor but always, always kind," added Joe Distelheim, metro editor at the Observer in the late 1970s.
Dim, 76, who eventually became managing editor of the Observer before returning to New York as an editor at Newsday and later a corporate communications specialist, died Saturday in New York after a lengthy battle with cancer.
He came to the Observer about the same time as Distelheim, Walker Lundy, Bill Fuller, Dave Lawrence and Mark Ethridge. All went on to successful careers as editors in Charlotte and elsewhere.
"It was really a special time," Ethridge recalled Sunday. "That group helped restore the Observer in the late 1970s and 1980s to where it was earlier."
Dim's wife of 52 years, Joan, said her husband was a brilliant editor.
"Every time I use the word 'actually,' or 'lie' or 'lay,' or consider the calamity of 'indirection,' I think of Stuart and am cognizant of how he made us better thinkers and writers," she said.
Before coming to Charlotte, Dim worked at Newsday on Long Island. He tutored young students, including one hard-charging reporter named Geraldo Rivera. At the Observer, he initially worked to identify the one or two best stories for the next day's newspaper.
Distelheim recalled how Dim would "work with the often-young writers through the whole process – helping mold the concept, checking in during the reporting, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with the writer during editing, teaching as he went."
Ethridge recalled Dim "being exacting without ever berating anyone."
Friends say he also was an athlete and a man who was willing to throw himself into a new life in the South.
"He was a big-city guy, but he really made the most of living in Charlotte," Ethridge recalled. "He and Joan bought a house in Stonehaven, and I remember him buying mulch and enjoying the yard work."
"Watching that New York native 'Southernize' in Charlotte was entertaining as hell," said Lundy, an assistant editor in Charlotte who later headed the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Oppel said Stuart and Joan Dim made a home for themselves in Charlotte but never got over the distance between the Carolinas "and what Joan referred to as 'a good loaf of rye'?" in the North.
"They loved that New York City bread," Oppel recalled.
Distelheim said Dim fell in love with ice cream and took up running to lose weight. When the running craze hit the country in the mid-1970s, he worked with then-sports editor Dale Bye to create the Charlotte Observer Marathon, a race that was held under various names until 2004.
"They wanted to get community involvement," Distelheim said of the race, which became one of the nation's top marathons in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Mostly, though, his former co-workers recall him as a warm person.
"Stuart Dim is one of the finest people and finest journalists I've ever known," said Lawrence, the Observer's editor in the late 1970s and later editor at the Miami Herald. "(He was) a man with passion for family, good writing, good books and good people."
- Steve Lyttle
Published in Charlotte Observer on June 24, 2013