In July 2009 we said goodbye to Saeko Usukawa, a friend, colleague and contributing editor to Geist. We didn’t know Saeko in 1948, when this picture was taken, but it perfectly portrays the Saeko we knew later on. She was a woman of intelligence, wisdom and taste—not only in clothes and accessories (as can be seen here), and in food, drink, flowers and furniture, but in paper, ink, type fonts and literature itself.
She was one of the first subscribers to Geist and she maintained her subscription for the rest of her life, though we’d have given her a free one. She brought interesting writers and artists to the magazine, and took the magazine to interesting readers. Until she became ill a few years ago, she attended all of our events, from the Geist Evenings of Dinner & Diversion in the early 1990s to the more recent issue launches and milestone celebrations. She also served as the Geist signage correspondent (it was she who alerted us to the Poem Construction building site, for example). With her partner, Peggy Thompson, she co-wrote two pieces published in Geist: “Gulf Island Sojourn” (No. 8) and “Okay, So If the Seventies, Then What? An Evening Without Television” (No. 14).
Saeko was well known in the Canadian trade publishing industry as one of the best book editors in the country, and she seemed always to be managing a relentless schedule and workload. Yet whenever a Geist editor sought her advice on a pesky editorial question—whether to insert a comma, where to check an obscure fact, which Dorothy Parker collection had that essay in it—she took the time to listen, consult sources, ponder the alternatives and say something wise, piquant and encouraging.
Saeko was one of the best friends a cultural magazine could have. We are very glad to have known her, and to have had her love and generosity through our first twenty years.