Sunday, April 26, 2009

G.E. "Skip" Lawrence, Journalist - Memorial service at the Franklin Commons, 400 Franklin Avenue, Phoenixville, PA, 4 p.m., Thursday, April 30, 2009

Skip Lawrence, writer for The Phoenix passed away yesterday.

Two local blogs, Watching Phoenixville, and One Small Voice in Phoenixville broke the sad news of his sudden death last night.

Skip's reporting for the Phoenix along with his editiorial column bought a unique perspective to his reports and the use of his stylized journalism provoked many to think about and question important issues in the Phoenixville area.

It seemed to me that Skip was constantly evolving in his thinking, and as his thought processing grew to an opinion on an issue, we grew with him.

We can only wonder how he would have described this, his last journey.

Skip was a man of much talent and many gifts except in length of years.

I will miss his writing, his warm hugs, and the respectful gentleness of the man within.

My sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.

God bless you, Skip.


Anonymous said...

Skip was a great spiritual soul.
He consoled the many people who suffered deeply with guidance, understanding and support in the shocking facts given during interviews regarding many intense reporting issues. Many may not realize that he was highly educated in church law, ethics and doctrine. He consoled the elderly, listend to the youth and wrote stories to inform the public on history and fact involving delicate situations. God Be with you In The Kingdom of Heaven SKIP. You will be greatly missed.

Anonymous said...

Skip, You had the best smile, kind heart and a talent which will be missed greatly.

This town looked forward to your spin on the borough drama as you could editorialize with such a spark. The reporting on the same topics at times hurt those who didn't want to hear the truth, but you laid it all out there!

And then some.

May the Lord be with your family and keep you in his care as we know you have gone doing what you love to do... and lived, loved and did good on this earth.

Karen said...

From today's Phoenix.

Phoenixville has lost its greatest advocate
G.E. 'Skip' Lawrence passes away
Monday, April 27, 2009

By Nick Danna

PHOENIXVILLE — The staff of this newspaper was shocked and devastated to learn Saturday of the passing of our friend, G.E. "Skip" Lawrence.

Skip was much more than a writer for The Phoenix — he was our counselor, moral compass and close friend. He brought a vigor and intelligence to his writing that was unequaled by any writer in the region. He understood the issues he covered on a deeper level than any of us. He is irreplaceable.

More importantly, Skip Lawrence was perhaps the best human being I have ever known. The archetypal qualities of a good man defined Skip. His kindness and patience were inexhaustible, his nobility and wisdom apparent to any one who exchanged even the briefest of words with him. I marvel that anyone could be that genuine and kind.

Final arrangements for Skip's memorial service had not yet been made as of press deadline for this edition of The Phoenix, but once they are in place they will be made available here and on our Web site. We would hope that everyone who reads The Phoenix will attend that service. We all owe him that, and a great deal more.

What follows in this space are the collected thoughts of Skip's friends and colleagues here at Phoenixville Newspapers, past and present, at the news of his death.

For my part, I feel a deep regret that the tenor of our last conversation was not as I would have had it, and a deep sadness at the realization that one of this planet's best citizents is no longer here.

I am grateful, in examining our last conversation, that the last thing I said to him was "thank you." That's how each of our conversations ended, and I meant it every time.

l l l

Skip was a great writer, person and listener, with a thing for borough politics. But for me, the most important thing was his love for his granddaughters and the time he spent with them.

— Barry Taglieber, Staff Photographer, The Phoenix

l l l

This weekend, I've been trying to wrap my mind around the words to describe Skip Lawrence, and the phrase "renaissance man" always seems to appear.

Here was a man who wanted to write for his town's newspaper, and began submitting columns and stories on a regular basis, until he was brought on as our political reporter. While he wasn't necessarily a "full-time" reporter, his love of politics and desire to learn more about it became a full-time position. However, his love for his granddaughters kept him a grounded man, and they lovingly referred to him as "Pop Pop."

I've seen Skip socializing with a cup of coffee in one hand, cigarette in another, and engaging in thought-provoking conversation. I've seen him inquiring of a borough official on some important matter, and jotting down their responses. I've also witnessed Skip be "Pop Pop" to his granddaughters, and I'm sure they will blossom from his time with them, and flourish while remembering him.

People like Skip Lawrence manage to come into your life for a purpose, and unfortunately leave at a time when you wish he hadn't. Skip's purpose was to provide thought-provoking, "big mind-boggling wordy" columns, along with polished political stories, to the community at large.

I truly wish he was here to write yet another "big mind-boggling wordy" column, and so do plenty of others. Skip Lawrence, you will be missed beyond words by those who you've left an impression with.

— Dennis J. Wright, Staff Writer, The Phoenix

l l l

Skip Lawrence was one of those lucky few who found and led a life that he truly enjoyed.

Skip wrote without restraint, and though he cared what others thought, he never let anybody's opinion get in the way of telling great and well-researched stories. More importantly, he also had the chance to see his grandkids grow in a town he loved.

The first time I met Skip, he was brushing aside some grime to look through a window of a then-under-construction business on Bridge Street. Before I recognized him from his column photo, I soon knew this was someone who was terribly curious and cared deeply about Phoenixville.

His column was a joy for him and us. Skip had the wonderful ability to take national issues and localize them, so that we all became part of the big picture.

Skip was a fixture around town, because he enjoyed watching the wheels spin and not merely to generate fodder for his column. Still, he often reported from the front lines and used a sledgehammer to express his well-considered opinions in black and white.

Sadly, a voice that spoke for many of us was silenced.

— Bill Rettew Jr., former staff reporter for The Phoenix

l l l

I went through my entire life wondering if I would ever meet a person like Skip Lawrence.

— J. Matthew Byrd, Online Editor, The Phoenix

l l l

For me, Skip was both a friend and a mentor. The Phoenix was my first job and it was easy to look up to this man who was so entrenched in the workings of the town and knew everything that was going on — even the news that wasn't going on. I learned from him not only that I should pay close attention and try to get all the details of a single story, but that most of the time a single story was more complex than just one meeting or event. I also learned that it's OK to champion something in my reporting if that something is an entire town of people; Skip loved Phoenixville, was proud of it and always put it first in his reporting, whether by showing us something to be hopeful or happy about, or unearthing something that needed to be changed so Phoenixville could become a better place. He taught me to be thoughtful and curious (but not in the obnoxious "So how did that make you feel?" way) and I learned all these lessons from him not through a lecture or a quiet chat, but through watching him work or talking to him about an upcoming project. He personified journalism to me and I'm so glad I had the chance to work with him.

Of course, more importantly to me, he was a friend. He was genuinely interested in my life and I know he took pleasure in watching me grow as a journalist. Even though I was young and inexperienced (some of you might even think plain bad), he was willing to work on projects with me and actually encouraged joint projects throughout the staff. He loved to get together at Artisan's before a borough meeting and talk about the different stories we had going on and also plan things for the future. He also liked to just shoot the breeze outside the building with all of us. I knew he was a friend because even though I looked up to him, I felt absolutely comfortable disagreeing with him, like when we had a reporter roundtable about the proposed rail line or trail. Discussing the issue with both Skip and Brian McCarthy was one of the highlights of my time at The Phoenix.

I'm going to miss seeing him walk into the building, a hat on his head and a scarf wrapped around his neck, holding a cup of coffee. I'm going to miss reading his stories about local government and his insights into those stories. I'm going to miss his laugh and his great tales about what he did with his granddaughters that day. I'm comforted in the fact though, that I will never forget all that I learned from him and I will always look up to him, a great friend and mentor.

— Laurie Perini, Assistant Editor, Tri County Record

l l l

It was the second Tuesday after the first Monday of the month when I first met Skip Lawrence, standing outside Borough Hall on a Council break (the first of many that evening). He was dragging on a cigarette, coffee cup in hand. We made our introductions: me, a 20-something with a hard head, and he, a distinguished writer who had already forgotten more about life than I will probably ever learn.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," he said, nodding and extending his hand to me, cigarette hanging jauntily from the corner of his mouth.

He plucked the cigarette from his lips and held it between his thumb and forefinger. "This is a... very interesting place," he said with a sly smile as he gestured to the building's front door.

Indeed it was — although that was the understatement of the century — and in the years to come, Skip, always the professor eager to educate, taught both me and his readers lesson after invaluable lesson about the interesting and often volatile world of Phoenixville politics. The man was a genuine journalist, his news pieces all hard fact that let his readers decide the most relevant points. But it was his column, "In Common," that really forced us to think... and dust off our old friend Dictionary on more than a few occasions.

Conversations with him were even more thought provoking, and always had a point. Oftentimes I found myself saying, "There's a lesson in here somewhere..." He would laugh in that quiet way he had and reply, "Yes, there is a lesson."

That lesson, always spoken in soft tones, was not just about the issue at hand but about life in general, a new perspective. A true embodiment of "speak softly and carry a big stick," even when his words contained criticism or a strong message it was doled out in those same soft, grandfatherly tones. Skip cared deeply for Phoenixville, and he wanted us to care deeply for Phoenixville, too.

Very community minded, Skip was involved in a variety of things, including serving on the board of directors of Stepping Stone Education Center, which his grandchildren attended. His love for his family was evidenced by his constant chatter about his "grandbabies" and how much he enjoyed spending time with them — a second shot at fatherhood. He discussed potty training and nap time just as easily as he discussed the minutes of last night's council meeting. Having seen him at play with his grandbabies, there is no doubt they will carry with them many fond, lasting memories of this dedicated, caring man.

Many of us will carry such memories, whether of Skip the journalist or Skip the person.

His death leaves a hole in the collective heart of Phoenixville. He was a man who touched many with his quiet manner. He will be missed.

— Karin Williams, former staff reporter for The Phoenix

Karen said...

From Skip's son, Christopher Lawrence.

The meaning of 'philanthropy'
Monday, April 27, 2009

By Christopher Lawrence


On Saturday, April 25, 2009, people helped other people.

To raise money for the Arthritis Foundation, over 400 people —donned in white, a sea of turquoise, a band of orange (with a few small ones in yellow) — gathered on the campus of Ursinus College this past Saturday. The 2009 Collegeville Arthritis 5k Walk and Run, the fifth to be held on Ursinus' campus, got underway with the bright sun just beginning to warm the day, and snaked through the suburban side-streets south of the campus; it was a show of new leaf buds and spring flowers surrounding the houses, parks, and streams crossed.

From the perspective of this walker, a seasoned walker with numerous 5k fundraisers and 50-mile plus hikes under his belt, it was a very well-organized and successful event. Water stations were set up and manned along the way, while crossing guards kept safe the busier intersections. The entire event was a testament to the efforts of one Cheryl Lutz and her team of volunteers; particularly co-chairs April Cobb and Cherie Lewis-DiGian, who blanketed the area with information about the event. Everyone enjoyed the magnificent morning, and in the end, over $45,000 was raised to fund local research and programs, including exercise programs to ease symptoms, and a camp for children dealing with the ailment.

The event was the largest Collegeville Arthritis walk to date: those 400 people, grouped into 19 teams, (plus at least 20 walk-in additions), most of whom were family and friends of people with arthritis, bested the previous high by more than 30 percent. The largest group, Team Enbrel (consisting of employees and family representing Wyeth, the local Presenting Event Sponsor, in the turquoise), were able to muster some 200 volunteers to attend.

There was also a second story which threaded itself into Saturday's philanthropy; one not really separate at all from the first. Among the 19 teams was Caellie's Clan, formed from a good portion of the group sometimes known as Clan McClaneous for it's varied and often Celtic ancestries. The members listed on the back of those orange T-shirts with the smiling monkey artwork: Mommy (the same April Cobb), Aunkie, Caellie, William, Shaylan, Nana, Té�o Chris (your author), Suzanne, Auntie Heather, Pop Pop, Emmy, and Hannah.

The group started the walk (somewhat) together — a short last minute bathroom break required the team delay a bit — and ended together in a very happy and relaxed last place. The bright spring weather and the quiet nature of being alone in the back meant that along the way, Caellie's Clan talked about azaleas, apple trees, star flower and skunk cabbage, streams, bridges, and the trolls which live under them (Watch out Ursinus, I was informed by none other than Caellie herself that your local troll eats bricks.)

Well, after the walk had ended, and all were gathering for bread, popcorn, drinks; after dropping his sweater off in Aunkie's car, and getting himself some refreshments, my father, and normal author of this weekly column, collapsed unexpectedly. Still to be named strangers came to our aid in seconds. Others, unknown and loved, called paramedics, who arrived in record time. They all helped my father and my family as the walkers had earlier helped; willing sacrifice of self for the wellbeing of another, in the true Greek fashion of the word philanthropy — "to love people."

For many who have met G.E. "Skip" Lawrence, you have also likely met some of Caellie's Clan about town, especially the smaller of them (one perhaps with notebook in hand, Reporter's Dress on?). For you, the moniker "Pop Pop" is familiar. He was proud Pop to myself and my sister, my step-brother and step-sister (Chris, Heather, Seamus and April, respectively), and an equally proud Pop Pop of six grandchildren (Emmy, Caellie, Hannah, Shaylan, William, and Maddie), who he spent many days caring for.

For those who knew him even better, and now for those of you reading, Skip was a devout Christian who studied and knew his topics of conversation deeply. He loved the world and every single solitary person in it with all of his being.

He began his professional career working to improve transportation (both public and private) in the city of Ithaca, N.Y., where he attended Cornell, married my mother (Janet), and told dirty jokes to the Dalai Lama (who was speaking at the University a different warm spring day). After earning a graduate degree in Theology and Social Ethics from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, he worked as a Fundraising Director for numerous non-profit organizations and academic institutions; The Lilly Endowment, Haverford College, University of Delaware, Stevens Institute of Technology, The Museum of Natural Science of Philadelphia and dozens more over many years, pushing the expansion of both knowledge and love.

Most recently, he has focused effort on the aiding the Phoenixville Main Street Community Development Corporation and the Stepping Stones Preschool — unofficially, helping promote other areas of Phoenixville life and politics: the First Friday program, expansion of public and non-motorized transportation, and the expansion of the Phoenixville library (insert crafty and poignant plug for that project here).

Outside of work, my father read and taught, wrote and drew, was a fellow traveler of technology (recently published in the FDR Presidential Library thanks to Google Alerts), helped and extended his heart and respect to anyone who needed it. He adopted those who needed a parent, and guided those who needed a direction. He spent his life embodying philanthropy.

Instead of cards or flowers, we would appreciate if any expressions of joy at my father's life be paid forward. Please make donations to either the Arthritis Foundation or Stepping Stone Preschool, located here in Phoenixville, to continue what Skip/Pop Pop/Emerson/George/Em so effectively picked up from, and continued for, his forefathers in philanthropy.

So, as suggested, the two stories are indeed one.

Arthritis Foundation

111 South Independence Mall East

Suite 500

Philadelphia, PA 19106

Stepping Stone Education Center

400 Franklin Ave Suite 400

Phoenixville, PA 19460

Karen said...

G.E. 'Skip' Lawrence, 60
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

G.E. "Skip" Lawrence, companion of Adrienne Selinger, of Phoenixville, died suddenly, April 25, 2009, in the Phoenixville Hospital, Phoenixville.

Born in Trenton, N.J., he was a son of the late George E. and Alice (Pettit) Lawrence. He attended high school in Trenton, earned his undergraduate degree in Government from Cornell University, and his graduate degree in Theology and Social Ethics from the Divinity School of the University of Chicago.

Mr. Lawrence was employed by The Phoenix newspaper as a columnist and senior political correspondent.

He was very active in the Phoenixville community, where he lived and worked, volunteering for several community improvement boards, including the Main Street CDC (Community Development Corporation). Mr. Lawrence also volunteered in many areas of the non-profit sector in the Tri-County and Philadelphia areas, as well as other locations around the country.

Of all of his accomplishments, Mr. Lawrence was most proud of his title "Pop-Pop" to his six grandchildren. He loved spending time with them, no matter where he was or what he was doing.

In addition to his companion of 23 years, Mr. Lawrence is survived by: one daughter, Heather L. (Brad) Rabold, of Spring City; one son, Chris E. Lawrence (Suzanne Banks), of Phoenixville; two step-children, April (Christopher) Cobb, of Spring City, and Seamus Phillips, of Virginia; six grandchildren; one sister, Joan Peterson, of Fla.; one brother, Robert Lawrence, of New Jersey; and every other person who had the opportunity to know him.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend his memorial service at the Franklin Commons, 400 Franklin Avenue, Phoenixville, PA 19460, on Thursday, April 30, 2009, at 4 p.m. Officiating will be the Rev. Dale See. Burial will be held privately at the convenience of the family.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Stepping Stone Education Center, 400 Franklin Avenue, Phoenixville, PA 19460, or to the Arthritis Foundation, 111 S. Independence Mall E, Philadelphia, PA 19106.

The Campbell-Ennis- Klotzbach Funeral Home, Main Street at Fifth Avenue, Phoenixville, is in charge of the arrangements.

Condolences may be made online at

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