Rick Hamlin shares the story of a promise he kept to retired Guideposts' Editor-in-Chief, Van Varner
Hi, I'm Rick Hamlin, the Executive Editor of Guideposts, and this is really about a promise I made to Van Varner, who was the Editor in Chief of Guideposts back in the 80's and was the editor who hired me. Van was a witty, urbane, charming, charming man, an excellent editor, but there was this quality he had where he would treat things that were serious with a good deal of humor. In fact, there was always this mixture of humor and truth in a lot of the things he said, for instance, at the end of every work day, when he'd be going home with his briefcase, he called it his ridicule, his briefcase filled with manuscripts and you'd say, "Bye, Van, I'll see you tomorrow," and he'd say, "God willing." Or at the millenium when we had a little celebration here at the office, he was retired, he retired back in the 90's, but he came to the celebration that was New Year's Eve afternoon and we were, we were standing at the corner after the little celebration at Fifth Avenue and 34th right by our offices, and I said, "Van, did you ever think you'd live to see the year 2000?" and he looked at me and he said, "Well, I haven't yet."
One more thing he would do with all of us editors when we'd give him a manuscript that he was going to work on, he would take it and he would look at it and he'd say, "I will read this with great interest." I want to tell you those little things about Van because this promise I made happened in an editorial session years and years ago, and we'd be discussing a manuscript and you'd end up discussing a movie that he thought of or a play, he was a great theater goer, he probably saw everything on Broadway from about 1939 on. So we were talking about the manuscript and he suddenly ended up talking about Noel Coward, an English playwright and composer, and I said, "Oh, you know I really love that song of Noel Coward's called 'If Love Were All,'" and Van said, "That's my favorite song." And I said, "Oh, well, then I'll sing it at your memorial." He said, "You have to sing that at my memorial." So, it's one of those promises you think, eh, it's a little lighthearted moment, but I knew it was something that I'd have to keep. Van had a stroke about ten years ago, and he was great afterwards, he struggled with words but he would write articles for the magazine, he wrote for Daily Guideposts, he would come by the office, he'd go visit his friends, he'd go to the theater as always. Then, he had a second stroke just this past year in January, and he didn't survive, he died at the age of 84 and his memorial is coming up. So, it's now my turn to make good on my promise. Let me sing it for you, and you can tell me if it's going to work. You wonder why he wanted this song, and it has that combination of wit and charm, but also, really, truth about about something that was very serious to him.
I believe in doing what I can
In crying when I must
In laughing when I choose
Hey ho, if love were all
I should be lonely.
I believe the more you love a girl,
The more you give your trust,
The more you're bound to lose.
Although when shadows fall
I think if only
Somebody splendid really needed me
Someone affectionate and dear
Cares would be ended if I knew that she
Wanted to have me near.
Still I believe that since my life began
The most I've had is just a talent to amuse.
Hey ho, if love were all.
That's the song I'm going to do, I'll try to do my best, or as he would say, God willing.