Ex-colleagues surprise Virginian-Pilot retiree Bob Lynn
Aug. 2, 2022 - Bob Lynn, 90, and Millie Lynn, soon to be 84, were surprised by family and many “photo family” members from Lynn’s days at The Virginian-Pilot, where he served as director of photography for 17 years. The Lynns fund the annual $4,000 “Bob and Millie Lynn Grant” via the National Press Photographers Foundation (information below), and the grant is open for applications through Sept. 12.
The surprise birthday idea for the Lynns started in April with a phone conversation.
Photographers and editors who worked together at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia, and its sister afternoon edition, The Ledger-Star, through the 1980s and 2000s — Roman Lyskowski, Karen Kasmauski and Bill Tiernan — connected with Lynn’s family members.
The Lynn family was planning a long weekend in Asheville, North Carolina, to celebrate Bob’s 90th birthday on Aug. 2 and Millie’s 84th on Aug. 18. Their children and grandchildren came from Richmond, Virginia; Phoenix; and Raleigh, North Carolina. The former Pilot staffers arranged to join them for the surprise on Saturday, July 23, at a local brewpub.
The former Pilot staffers traveled from far and wide:
Photographer Bill Tiernan came from Norfolk.
Martin Smith-Rodden, former staff photographer and photo editor, came from Indianapolis with his spouse, Pam, who was a copy editor, copy desk chief news editor, district manager of circulation, director of circulation and director of marketing.
Roman Lyskowski, picture editor, came from Sanibel, Florida, with Elissa, his wife.
Michele McDonald, photographer, came from Portland, Maine.
Alex Burrows, picture editor and director of photography, came from Norfolk en route to San Francisco with Ann Barry Burrows, a former writer at The Pilot.
Lois Bernstein, photographer, came from Chicago with husband Robert Neustadt.
“Bob was really surprised,” Bernstein wrote in an email. “The first thing he thought is, ‘That guy over there looks like Alex Burrows.’ But being in Asheville, we were out of context.”
“Wait! That is Alex Burrows,” Lynn said Monday on a call, describing his delayed reaction. He answered the call while shopping in Target, and he sounded like Bob: happy.
What’s his secret to long life? “Good genes, good healthy cooking by Millie and a good attitude!” he said.
“Working for Bob Lynn was like having a dream come true,” Michele McDonald wrote in an email. “He saw the best in each photographer and had an eternally optimistic and hopeful outlook. He also had very high standards and was quite sophisticated in the ways he looked at and thought about photos. Bob was direct when necessary but in a gentle way. He was incapable of being mean-spirited or small-minded. I think all of the photographers — 18 of us when I worked at The Virginian-Pilot — tried to live up to what he saw in us. I know I did. I remember the department as a place of great creativity and friendly competition, alive with talented photographers who spurred each other on. I learned to take risks with my work there, and found a home for my passionate love of photography.”
The Bob and Millie Lynn Grant via the NPPF was created to “encourage photojournalists to pursue stories that expose the side of American society that tends to be under-covered and ignored.” The $4,000 grant is awarded annually.
Bob Lynn was assistant managing editor/graphics at The Virginian-Pilot, where he served as its photojournalism leader for 17 years. During that time, The Pilot was recognized annually for its photojournalistic excellence in the University of Missouri’s Pictures of the Year competition, including three first-place wins for Best Use of Pictures for large metropolitan newspapers. Lynn came to Norfolk from The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, where he was graphics editor for three years. Under his leadership, The Gazette earned a reputation for excellent use of photographs. Lynn started his career as a sports reporter at the Wilmington, North Carolina, Morning Star. He went to The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Los Angeles Times as a reporter and photographer. He retired in 1997 from The Pilot after a 38-year career in journalism. In 2013, he authored “Vision, Courage & Heart,” a book about leadership, the magic of motivation and the path to professional success.
Photos courtesy Michele McDonald, Lois Bernstein, Matt Lynn
Scroll for more photos