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Farewell, Sonia Linebaugh

February 23,1946 - October 12, 2018

Sonia outside the original New Bay Times office in Deale, circa 1995.
       One day in late April 1993, Sonia Linebaugh dropped in to see how we were doing in making New Bay Times. She stayed for four and a half years.
       What Sonia did to nourish the infant newspaper for all the next 192 weeks is recorded in black and white history, in our evolving masthead and recurring pages. Those faded pages, preserved in New Bay Times, New Bay Times~Weekly and Bay Weekly volume books, tell a long story but an incomplete one.
      Books preserve what was done, the finished act of journalism. Like documenting a baseball team’s season by its statistics, a print-only record misses the spirit of the team and the freely, fully given genius of each of its players. The sustaining spirit Sonia poured into our family newspaper, and that story, lives in human memory. 
      It’s Alex Knoll who dates Sonia’s appearance in our shoebox office at Tri-State Marine in Deale to the days between the publication of the first and second edition of our prototype fortnightly issue. We hadn’t printed enough of the first to make all the introductions that had to be made between New Bay Times issue one and issue two.
      Those were among the hardest weeks in our now 25-year history, for we’d created our prototype and that first issue — but not the second. 
      Joining New Bay Times was a logical next step for Sonia as well as a lifesaving step for us.
      Sonia and I had discovered each other very shortly after her move to Fairhaven Cliffs in the late 1980s. Both artists in search of our media, Sonia, who was then the visual artist, and I, the wordmaker, turned to each other for inspiration and collaboration.
      New Bay Times would devour all I had to give — all any of us had to give — and still be unsatisfied. It drew Sonia — and over the course of 25 years, hundreds more. 
       When the reprinted Vol. 1, No. 1 appeared April 29, 1993, Sonia’s name was on the masthead, with Alex, under the heading Production. That meant she and Alex stood together to cut and paste column widths of printed text onto cardboard flats the size of a full double-truck sheet of New Bay Times pages. Using the proportion wheel, she’d size photos to the blanks to be filled pre-production by our printer. She’d paste tiny corrected words over misspellings, rolling it all smooth with brayers. In the early months, even fortnightly production took us long into the night, sometimes beyond into the early morning.
       Sonia gave us all that and way more.
       In Vol. 1, No. 1, she’d shot and assembled the photomontage for my first New Bay Times environmental story, Trashing Our Beaches. Vol. 1, No. 2, she wrote Dandelions Abound for what would become the feature Who’s Here. Her first personal essay, the Reflection Calm and Storm, appeared on June 17, in Vol. 1 No. 5 — the same edition that debuted the great outdoors writer Bill Burton’s first column for us.
       Week by week, Sonia shaped every page, becoming Page Editor by our second year, 1994. Week by week — pasting, writing, drawing, photographing, imagining, creating — she lifted us on her shoulders. By our third year, 1995, she had earned the title Associate Editor.
      If you met Sonia, you were likely to find yourself written about — or writing; drawn or drawing. Neighborhood kids posed for cover shots with hollyhocks — that’s Maureen Carr, who grew up to graduate as a Marine from the U.S. Naval Academy — or kittens needing homes. She lured the Carrs, the Veiths, the Hines, the Kellys, the Swaggerts, the Smiths, the Brumbaughs and every child of every staffer into reading and reviewing books and writing poems and stories.
       No safer were her own kids, Stephanie and Darin, who modeled for her drawings and shared and recorded their adventures, from enduring the imprinting of the pet goose Sir William to learning to windsurf to motoring a sailboat down the intracoastal waterway.
       From a remembered Halloween encounter with a costumed tree to her backyard birds and flowers to her sacred places, most every sight that swept into Sonia’s ken turned up in those early pages. Much of what she experienced — from a doomed baby bird (which you can read below) to USNA football to her beloved Mother Meera, who she believed an avatar of the divine mother — we experienced through her eyes, words and pictures.
       From that first week, Sonia stayed with New Bay Times and New Bay Times~Weekly through July 31, 1997. Even after that she popped back in now and again.
      But there was more than newspapering to make of her life. A pilgrim soul, Sonia searched for realms beyond what we can see and touch and hear and taste and feel. She explored those realms, and now it may well be that her soul is exploding, expanding into the vast energy field beyond the dynamic tapestry woven of time.