The founders of Greenwich magazine tell their story—with a twist. Here’s what happens when a husband and wife sit down to profile one another
illustrations by Matt Collins
In 1947 the average cost of a gallon of gas was fifteen cents, a new car was $1,300, and a new home would run you about $6,600; the Yankees won their eleventh World Series; Miracle on 34th Street was tops at the box office; and a little ceremony called the the Tony Awards debuted at the Waldorf Astoria. And, though not with quite the same fanfare, a small black-and-white publication called the Greenwich Social Review was printed for the first time in Greenwich, Connecticut. That twenty page bulletin is the foundation for what you hold in your hands today.
In 1986 Donna and Jack Moffly bought the Greenwich Review (the “Social” was dropped in 1973) and in 1990 they purchased the Nutmegger. The resulting publication would be known as Greenwich magazine. Like any magazine that has withstood the test of time, our look and feel has evolved. But our commitment to both inform and entertain you will never change.
Given that we’ve featured nearly every other colorful character in town, it seemed long overdue to tell the story of the couple who started it all. But who would write the article? Plenty of writers would love to immortalize the pair in print, but it had to be someone who could get inside their heads, their marriage, their quirks. It had to be someone who knew them as well as they know each other… . Hey, wait a minute!
Turns out that Donna and Jack were game for the job. Taking the assignment seriously, they sat down to formally interview one another at their dining room table with tape recorders rolling (and perhaps with a few glasses of wine). Then they clicked away at their computers—agreeing not to share their stories until both pieces were complete.
What follows is twofold. It is a glimpse into the years of hard work, dedication, passion and, of course, fun, that it took to build Greenwich magazine. And it is a tribute to the admiration, respect and love they have for each another. This dynamic duo shows what it means to marry your best friend.
Over the past sixty-five years there has been no other publication that tells the stories and introduces you to the personalities that this magazine does. People trust us to tell their tales. We have built a reputation of quality and integrity. And I think we can all agree that there are two people we have to thank for that. Here are their stories.
Just who is Jack Moffly?
I should be the first to know after fifty-three years of marriage following a six-month courtship. But maybe I missed something. Let’s take a closer look.
In the beginning (as the Good Book says) was Philadelphia. That’s where Jack grew up. After Chestnut Hill Academy, he wanted to go to St. George’s; but his mother said it was too social (and Jack was always very social). These were the war years and his father’s real estate and building business had dried up; so his mother bicycled him around in search of the best working scholarship. They found it at Andover where he accelerated in order to graduate early and join the U.S. Army Air Force, inspired by his big brother Ed, a highly decorated pilot with the 100th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. But the war ended before Jack could get his wings. He went on to graduate from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School; and though a loyal tiger, he still credits Andover as his “more maturing experience.”
There’s still a lot of Philadelphia in Jack Moffly. He is very polite, was the last to give up garters to hold up his socks, and he puts a high price on culture. His mother was always enthralled with the American Ballet Theatre, which her good friend Lucia Chase, while performing into her fifties, subsidized to keep in business. “Many of the ballerinas and ballet dancers came to our house for dinner or spent the night when they were on tour in Philadelphia,” Jack recalls. “When I was five or six years old, I remember hearing all this noise and coming downstairs in my pajamas to witness the greatest scene I’ve ever seen in my life. They were jumping all over the living room—doing pirouettes and grand jetés right over the furniture!”
A seasoned sailor, Jack has done many offshore races, including six Bermuda Races and four Marblehead-Halifax Races, plus one-design racing in Long Island Sound. “Guess it’s a sign of a misspent youth,” he quips. Twice he has had to be rescued—once crossing the North Atlantic on Bob Hart’s Freres 44 Athena, when he was washed overboard in a Force 9 gale (on our thirtieth wedding anniversary); the second time, while single-handling our Nonsuch Purple Tiger, when he fell overboard with the boat under power on automatic pilot and was dragged across Captain’s Harbor by his heels entangled in a line (on our fiftieth wedding anniversary). Commented sailing pal Miles McDonald: “Well, Jack, I know what you’re going to do on your sixtieth anniversary. You’re going to fall out of your walker into the bathtub!”
He’s a super salesman, having been in advertising sales for various Time Inc. publications, including LIFE, for thirty years before taking early retirement to buy the Greenwich Review with me in 1986. It seemed a perfect fit for his personality. Jack’s a people person—the last to leave a party where there’s a new friend to meet or town issue to discuss—and publishing is certainly a people business. He’s hugely curious—the last to leave a museum, too—and publishing is all about what’s happening to whom. He’s adventurous, and even though his mother opined, “Why in the world do we need any more magazines?” when he told her about our exciting new plan, he was game to take a flier on building up that little magazine and taking on his wife as business partner ta boot.
“Who’s going to be editor?” I asked at the closing. “You are,” he said. “But I’m a writer,” I protested. “I don’t know a thing about editing.” “Donna, we can’t afford an editor, OK?” he retorted with strained patience. “You’re it!” So that was that.
Then, too, Jack admits he always wanted to be a journalist. He loves writing, but felt he couldn’t be hired as one because he didn’t have the right background. “Then I realized that the one way I could become a writer was to own my own magazine,” he comments. Thus he became the respected author of many a piece, especially on town issues, and the envy of his many publishing friends.
When asked who were some of the most interesting people he has connected with in his role as publisher, he is quick to mention two Greenwich journalists supreme: Bernie Yudain, a good friend, supporter and early advisor; and Roy Rowan, well-known Time Inc. editor. He also had the opportunity to introduce Joseph Verner Reed, former Under Secretary General of the United Nations and ambassador to Morocco, to Ted Turner, who had just given $1 billion to the UN. Ted was speaking at Greenwich Library and Jack knew him through sales and sailing. That’s the fun part of the business.
How about the toughest challenges? “One was maintaining the leading edge in a rapidly evolving technology, but that problem was solved when son Jonathan, an electrical engineer, joined the business,” Jack points out. “Another was making sure that in my enthusiasm I didn’t allow expenses to exceed revenue.” The scariest times came, he says, soon after Jonathan took the helm of the company at the end of 2007. “When the bottom fell out of the market, our revenue dropped 50 percent overnight and Jonathan had to cut payroll faster than the loss of revenue. But fortunately,” he adds, “it has been possible to hire back many of those people and regain much of the lost advertising.”
What might Jack have done differently? “I think Jonathan, Donna and I would agree that we should have launched Stamford magazine many years ago when we first talked about it,” he reflects. Rewards in publishing come in many forms. “I find real satisfaction in favorable responses to some of the editorials I write on town issues,” he says. But what Jack finds most gratifying is “when I witnessed our son, once a quiet and introverted young boy, become an accomplished public speaker and skilled entrepreneur.” He admits that when acquiring Greenwich Review twenty-five years ago, he had no idea that Moffly Publications (now Moffly Media) would become plural with six publications covering Fairfield County. “I wonder what life would have been like if we hadn’t made the decision to buy that little magazine,” he muses.
And there’s no end in sight. Suffice it to say that if it’s in Jonathan’s grand plan, there are plenty of our grandchildren to take over the business, should they care to. So many in fact that Jack sometimes has trouble remembering their names. Never mind. On a recent trip we took to Paris and Normandy with the Time Life Alumni Society, a teenager in our group, whose grandfathers were both deceased, commented: “If I had a grandfather, I’d want one just like Jack!” As for me, in spite of our whirlwind courtship, I didn’t make a mistake. As a wife, I soon discovered he’ll eat anything I cook (even gratefully); and as a business partner, I knew I could lean on him for lessons in diplomacy.
But perhaps best of all, I enjoy Jack’s ability to laugh at himself—like the time years ago when he was asked to introduce Katie Couric at a UNICEF fundraiser and had no idea who she was. He has actually enjoyed being roasted—twice. First as the Fall Guy at the Harpoon Club where Victor Borge, legendary comic pianist, took a particularly lead role in spearing him. And again at a SoundWaters benefit at Richards where Bernie Yudain, as chief roaster, issued a classic line as he surveyed the sales floor from his lofty position on the marble staircase: “I wondered why they had chosen this venue to roast Jack Moffly; then I realized that he would feel right at home among all these empty suits!”
Who is Jack Moffly? He’s the guy who seems ten years younger than he is. He’s the guy with enough energy to fit in a luncheon and three evening events into the same twenty-four hours. Maybe most important, he’s our popular founding publisher who loves people and always, always gives them the benefit of the doubt.
Who is Donna Moffly?
In Cleveland when we first married in 1959, Donna turned to me one day and asked me why I married her. I guess it was prompted by the fact that I was ten years older and seemed like a sophisticated Easterner from Philadelphia. “I married you for your potential,” I said flippantly, a line I have not been allowed to forget. Little did I know how much potential she had in store or that periodically over the years she would inquire, “So, how’s my potential?” “You’re doing just fine,” I would quickly reply, because Donna’s many talents continued to emerge in song and in the written word.
While she is immensely creative, she is also detail-oriented, a perfectionist and a lady with strong opinions who is not loathe to express them. Known to be irreverent on occasion, her sense of humor allows her to get away with more than she should. How can you get mad at someone when you’re laughing?
She is forever looking ahead anticipating the next project or problem; I sometimes accuse her of crossing bridges that haven’t been built yet. My picking up a pen to write my monthly Founder’s Page at the eleventh hour before deadline drives her to distraction. When Donna takes up a cause, she dedicates herself to it totally. Outside of her family and Moffly Media, that cause is Planned Parenthood, and she is a very active member of its Southern New England board. She has even gotten me down to Washington to lobby with her. I think she just enjoys a challenge.
And as editor-in-chief of Greenwich magazine from 1987 to 2007, she faced plenty of real challenges. “Probably my biggest was being able to say ‘no’ to people,” Donna recalls. “When Mrs. Bufforfington wants press for her favorite cause, we can’t ignore her. We’re not some giant newspaper that can just throw requests in a circular file. We need to deal with them diplomatically.” Then she adds, “We are, after all, the town magazine, here to serve the town.”
Of course, being part of any family business is always a challenge. “That’s why there seem to be so many family-business consultants out there,” Donna notes. “But I think we Mofflys have worked incredibly well together.” Family businesses have special dynamics different from those of public corporations, and when Jonathan came aboard we attended a number of classes designed to help us address the problems of maintaining family relationships in a business environment.
In her role as editor-in-chief, Donna has had some unusual adventures. “For one,” she says, “a ride in the Fuji blimp. You know, you can stick your head out the window and not ruffle a hair because you’re going with the wind. It feels like you’re standing still.” We had discovered that George Spyrou, chairman of Airship Management, lived in Greenwich, and when Donna interviewed him, he asked if we would like to see Greenwich by blimp. Would we ever! It was wonderful to peer into backyards and lean out the windows taking pictures while floating low and slow over the roofs. In fact, we were so low over Indian Harbor Yacht Club that people came out to wave at us—turned out they were actually trying to wave us off!
Then there was the White House adventure—coffee with President and Mrs. H. W. Bush in the Blue Room after the black-tie state dinner for the president of Italy in 1989. Joseph Verner Reed, chief of protocol, had arranged it but could only invite one of us to attend. So Donna, the writer, was the obvious choice. At the end of the evening, while her escort Patrick Daley from protocol went in search of stragglers like violinist Isaac Stern, she found herself all alone in the front hall with the Marine Band as they packed up their instruments. “Then Patrick took me back to The Hay-Adams Hotel and insisted he deliver me right to my room,” she recalls with a laugh, “and Jack opened the door in his pajamas.”
“You never run out of material in Greenwich,” says Donna, pointing out that she used to keep six or eight pages of single-spaced story ideas on her computer. “But I find people the most interesting subjects. Our town is a mecca for successful people in every field from finance and philanthropy to sports and the arts. And townies are the best. They are the heart and soul of our community, and I love writing about them.”
For example, there was Ada, proprietress of that famous little candy store in Riverside. “I interviewed her standing up at the counter while the mailman, UPS guy and various neighbors dropped by to pick up a coke or newspaper and chat,” Donna recalls. “She was getting on, but just wouldn’t sit down. What a trouper.” Ada was a stickler for pleases and thank-yous, and helped raise several generations of our kids properly. She was a character and so well-loved that the class of 1944 at Riverside School sent a limo to deliver her to the yacht club for their fiftieth reunion.
One of Donna’s favorite people was Helen Wilshire Walsh, a beloved grande dame in Greenwich. One afternoon in the nineties, she went to Mrs. Walsh’s home for a story about her remembrances of her close friend Dorothy Bush, the former president’s mother, just after “Dottie” died. John Rowland, hoping to raise money for his run for Governor, was her next appointment. “I remember asking Mrs. Walsh what she thought of Rowland,” says Donna, “and she leaned forward and said sotto voce, ‘You know, Donna, I think he has a very ordinary face.’ ”
Then there were the young people on the way up—big time. Like Lara Spencer, fledgling television star in 2003. “I interviewed her at our dining room table on the hottest day of the year,” says Donna, “before our house had air-conditioning. We drank iced tea and laughed for three hours.” Then Lara was off to Hollywood to cohost The Insider for ABC but, happily for us, would come back home this year as coanchor for Good Morning America.
There were also the Murray brothers. Donna first interviewed Shep and Ian for a piece in our Behind the Headlines department in 1999 when they scrapped their corporate jobs in the city and started selling neckties on Martha’s Vineyard. Now Vineyard Vines has twenty-two stores plus 1,100 other outlets from coast to coast, and their little pink whale has become a familiar logo.
There are definitely things Donna knows that she would have done differently—“like spelling Rukeyser right,” she admits. When we did the story on financial journalist Lou Rukeyser, he said he liked the article, even if his name was spelled incorrectly on the cover. So with tail between her legs, Donna sat down and wrote him a letter, enclosing a paper on which she spelled his name correctly in longhand 100 times. He got a kick out of that.
Then there was the piece on the wedding of the granddaughter of Nan and Stillman Rockefeller who had been referred to as the “late” Stillman Rockefeller. Except, as it happened, he was very much alive. “I was totally embarrassed,” Donna says, “but blessedly when I called to apologize, Mr. Rockefeller was every inch the gentleman. He kept his sense of humor and replied, ‘That’s all right. Most of my friends think I’ve been dead for years!’ ”
What are the things Donna has enjoyed most about being founding editor of Greenwich magazine and now adviser to all of Moffly Media publications? “Learning and teaching,” says Donna. She loves tackling new subjects, such as combat art. Why would artists like Marine Col. Mike Gish want to be dropped in a battlefield in Vietnam with his camera and sketch pad? Or in other areas: What is good feng shui for our house? What makes race-car drivers tick? How did we help the boat people fleeing Cambodia? Where did Greenwich streets get their names? “I’ve learned so much from the articles we have chosen to run, whether or not I’ve written them myself,” she says. “We’ve got a really well-educated audience and we need to pick stories that appeal to their intelligence.”
She is a master at putting a magazine together. Mixing ads with edit so everybody is happy is a skill she is passing on to the next generation of editors. “I’m so proud of the young people who have taken over my job and others in the company,” Donna says. “They have amazing talent and, boy, are they quick studies. We have a great time together.”
Donna also has a unique affinity with children. Some of our readers will recall the annual Grace Notes’ shows for children at Greenwich Library—Pinocchio, The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella and others. She wrote the lines and stage-directed most of them. The double entendres in her scripts kept children and parents alike laughing and crying over the same lines. Not surprisingly, our nine grandchildren think “D-D” is just the greatest. In our bedroom for their sleepovers awaits a private collection of children’s books to rival that at Perrot Library, and up in our attic, a collection of wigs, costumes and hats to rival Sophia’s for dress-up.
The twenty-five years since we bought the Greenwich Review have flown by. I wouldn’t trade them for anything, and I know that my wife and partner in publishing feels the same. At Wellesley Donna majored in economics and minored in writing, not being able to decide whether she wanted to be the world’s best businesswoman or the world’s best writer. Obviously, this joint venture was the perfect opportunity to put her potential to work in both arenas. Yes, her potential is still doing just fine, thank you.