Editor's Letter

Remembering Our Friends

Saying goodbye to a few G&G stalwarts—and looking forward to a brand-new year

Photo: Maggie Braucher

DiBenedetto and Julia Reed at the Garden & Gun office in Charleston, South Carolina.

On August 28, the Garden & Gun family lost a legend. Julia Evans Reed passed away from cancer at age fifty-nine. Her writing was a cornerstone of G&G for more than a decade, and her voice in the pages will be irreplaceable. She could frustrate any editor (including me) with her penchant for filing stories at the last possible minute, but those stories were always worth the wait. As her friend the historian Jon Meacham writes in his tribute to her, “If we’d tried to invent a character like Julia, nobody would have believed it. She was a tsunami of talent, charm, and energy. She could write about anything and make it sing. Her distinctive voice was at once affectionate and arch—a tough combination to pull off.” 

As the news spread of her passing, remembrances flowed from her friends—Laura Bush, Jay McInerney, Joe Scarborough, and many more. But also from her readers, for part of Julia’s magic was writing that not only brought them along but invited them in, handed them a drink, and turned up the music. So many of her fans have told me over the years, “I feel like I really know her.” And they did. The magic of Julia Reed was that she didn’t have to fake it. She was the real deal, on the page and in life. 

I’ll miss her for so many reasons: the late-night drinks, riding along on her slipstream of fun and energy, the stories she could unspool, and the raucous brainstorming sessions. That said, she would not have wanted a somber mood following the news of her passing. The night after learning she was gone, I made old-fashioneds with a couple of friends (as she and I had drained many together) and whipped up one of her favorite party snacks, hot cheese olives. If there was one thing she loved, it was an impromptu gathering that unexpectedly lasted late into the night, exceeding expectations and overflowing with fun, just like Julia herself. 

Sadly, she would not be our only loss. We also said goodbye recently to two other longtime contributors, Winston Groom and Randall Kenan. Groom, as many know, was the author of Forrest Gump along with numerous other novels and nonfiction books and some great yarns in G&G. Kenan was a writer and a professor at the University of North Carolina whose most recent collection of stories was a nominee for the National Book Award for fiction. His writing in G&G was both beautiful and vital. 

For many reasons, I won’t be too sad to see 2020 fade in the rearview mirror, but I hope this issue helps bring you a dash of holiday joy. (I for one plan to borrow a few tips from Bronson van Wyck’s brimming Bloody Mary bar.) Here’s to a 2021 that affords many occasions to raise a glass. 

David DiBenedetto
Senior Vice President & Editor in Chief