Former longtime New Canaan Advertiser editor dies
Ed Chrostowski, who chronicled life in New Canaan for a half century as editor of the New Canaan Advertiser, died this week.
“Ed Chrostowski was the heart and soul of the Advertiser newsroom for decades,” former reporter Kathy Wagner Morley of New Canaan said. “He had a strong work ethic. He was in the office by 5 every morning.”
A native of Stamford, Chrostowski was editor of the Advertiser for some five decades.
Chrostowski joined the Advertiser in 1960 from his position as editor of the Darien Review. Award-winning editor Carlton Hill had departed to work for a Milford daily after a falling out with then-publisher Don Hersam, Jr.
Charles Mitchell, former manager of the Darien Review, had joined Don Hersam Sr. to bolster the job printing business and assist in the publishing of the Advertiser.
Mitchell had hired Chrostowski at the Review, fired him the first week and immediately rehired him because of his talent, former Advertiser Publisher Don Hersam Jr. recalled. Chrstowski had recently graduated from the University of Connecticut.
Upon arrival in New Canaan Ed had become a skilled newsman with an exceptional ear for community news and local government, Hersam Jr. said.
“He readily made friendly acquaintances of top administrators and board and commission leaders as well as business owners,” Hersam, Jr. said. “His ability to capture the flow of life in New Canaan came quickly.”
In his first year in the editor’s chair the Advertiser captured the National Newspaper Association “Best Weekly” award and other awards at the New England Newspaper and Press Association. He continued to edit and write at a level that received recognition not only from his editorial peers, but most importantly his gained the trust and respect of town leaders who would often be found on a Friday or Monday morning seated next to his desk for a friendly and informative discussion.
“I am sure Ed already knew everything that was going on in New Canaan,” Morley said. “He talked to everyone, and knew its history, its issues and the people like the back of his hand. Ed had an uncanny ability to take any national story, and put a local, hometown spin on it, and he knew just the person in town to talk to. He worked hard, and made it look easy. When Ed would go on vacation, it would take us hours to do what he did in minutes. He was that good.”
His editorial writings, some weeks as many as four full editorials, the opinions of the editor and publisher, were informative, discerning and did much to guide the community as it developed.
“He was fair direct,” Hersam Jr. said, “and never needed to apologize to any of those whose feet were ‘held to the fire.’”
Those who worked with him recalled that Chrostowski was “hands on,” not only writing on his old Underwood typewriter in his own hunt and peck, (faster than most who used the touch system, Hersam Jr. noted) on sheets of newsprint cut to letter size from newsroll scraps, double spaced for editing notes.
“Walking into the office Monday morning I always braced myself for his question: ‘What have you got going?’ If I didn’t have four good story ideas — at least — I didn’t sleep well on Sunday nights, and I certainly made sure to have those story ideas before I walked into the office. I always suspected it was a test of my skills,” Morley added.
Thursdays in the Elm Street offices and print shop he would sketch the layout for Page One and the Editorial Page and work along side the late Chuck Ready to place the lead type in the chase the way he wanted it to appear in print.
Chrostowski had an encyclopedic knowledge of New Canaan, its history, and its inner workings.
He was a native of Stamford, son of immigrant Polish parents, had lost an older brother in the Italian Campaign of World War II.
After his retirement he never lost his love for the printed word and the creative side, as he would write for and edit the New Canaan Museum and Historical Society’s “Tydings” helping then-director Janet Lindstrom. At the annual Ice Cream Social at the society, Ed also would demonstrate type setting by hand with cases of moveable type donated to the society by the Advertiser when it converted to photo type and moved to Vitti Street in 1972. The society owns an Acorn press manufactured by the Hoe Press Company between 1815 and 1830 according to the late Harvey Jaecock who researched the press and refurbished it to operating condition about the same time. It still operates.
Chrstowski’s life was marked by tragedy in the loss of two children, Margie and Michael to Muscular Dystrophy. His third child Amy is a pediatrician in the northwest of Connecticut.