KEENE — Ed Hale liked challenges. He met them with courage and grace.
A World War II veteran, he served in the Pacific Theater. An intellectual, he had a bachelor’s degree in English from Dartmouth College, a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in political science from the State University of New York at Albany.
A journalist, he wrote for the Buffalo Evening News, won a Harvard Nieman Fellowship, owned and edited The Lake Placid News, and ended his career covering the Adirondacks for the Watertown Daily Times. An outdoorsman, he climbed the 46 Adirondack High Peaks – some of them countless times — and worked as a telemark ski instructor at Whiteface Mountain in his later years.
Above all, he was committed to his family. He was married to Barbara Jane Messer for 67 years, their marriage ending only with her death, at age 90, in 2015. They knew each other since they were 4 years old and were a nation of two. They raised three daughters – Stephanie Jane, Melissa Ann, and Heather Elizabeth – to be strong, independent, and thoughtful women. The Hales were deeply involved in the lives of their grandchildren, loving each for who they were.
Mr. Hale died at his Keene home on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, with his daughter Heather and a devoted nurse by his side. He was 92. Just after Christmas, he had become ill with pneumonia. He declined antibiotics and, without eating for a week, waited patiently for death.
Mr. Hale valued honesty. He coaxed his daughters into reading J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” before they were teenagers. And “phonies” became eschewed in the Hale household.
Born on June 1, 1925 in Brooklyn, Mr. Hale was the only child of the late Lydia Isabel Smith and Joseph Edward Hale Sr. His mother, a beautiful and elegant woman, was raised at Smithfield Manor in Bermuda. His father was a New York City stockbroker and top amateur golfer who lost everything when the stock market crashed in 1929; he turned to drink and was not a good father.
After his parents divorced, Mr. Hale and his mother became partners in a harsh Depression-era world, moving to various apartments in New Jersey as she supported them as best she could. She later married Roscoe Allen, a real-estate developer. Mr. Hale chose to keep his family name.
Mr. Hale left Ridgewood High School in his senior year, eager to fight in World War II. Because of poor eyesight, he was turned down in his efforts to enlist in several military branches until a relative in the Coast Guard allowed him to bypass the sight test. The Coast Guard was part of the war effort and Mr. Hale served on a number of South Pacific Islands, readying sites for landing. He named his bulldozer The Barbara Jane for the woman who would become his wife.
After the war, Mr. Hale went to Dartmouth College on the GI Bill. There he developed a deep love of literature and of writing, studying under Sydney Cox and Robert Frost. He also developed a love of skiing and mountain-climbing. He married in 1948, bringing his bride to live in a chilly Quonset hut just off campus. Mrs. Hale supported him, working in a travel agency as he finished his degree.
He went on to get a master’s degree at Columbia and then the couple moved to Buffalo, New York where Mr. Hale worked for the then-Evening News. An award-winning journalist, he made lifetime friends covering New York and national politics. He won a Nieman Fellowship in the 1950s, moving his young family to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he became friends with journalists from around the world.
After returning to The Buffalo Evening News, Mr. Hale then took a job, working for Malcolm Wilson, Nelson Rockefeller’s lieutenant governor. This allowed him to earn his Ph.D. in political science. The Hales moved to Guilderland and Mr. Hale went on to work for the state’s labor department, helping to develop New York’s program training people with low incomes and people who had been unemployed for a long time as well as providing jobs for high-school students from poor families.
During this time, he led his family up many of the Adirondack High Peaks. The Hales joined the Helderberg Ski Club where they climbed up the county slope and skied down, again and again. Mr. Hale became certified as both a ski instructor and a National Ski Patrol member and teacher.
In 1972, the Hales bought The Lake Placid News, which Mr. Hale wrote for and edited while Mrs. Hale handled the business side and photographs. The paper, under their tenure, was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and, in 1977, for a series on the Mohawk occupation at Moss Lake. The chairman of the Public Service jury wrote the Hales, “We were all greatly impressed by your entry. It was one of those under consideration right to the last.”
Mr. Hale concluded his journalism career, covering the Adirondacks for the Watertown Daily Times. He then devoted himself to hiking and skiing. He, his wife, and family members made trips to Canada and Norway to ski. He was passionate about teaching telemark skiing at Whiteface, which he did for 20 years until he was 90 years old. He was a level three – the top level – Nordic Downhill instructor as a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America.
He pursued his skiing and teaching despite setbacks with prostate cancer and partial blindness. After his wife died, his world closed in and he lost his sight entirely. With the help of his daughters and devoted caregivers, he was able to continue living in the Keene home he and his wife had built and loved.
He listened intently to books and maintained his keen interest in his children and grandchildren. Even after his world was completely dark, he learned to navigate his home with grace and constancy.
On the long hikes up Adirondack Mountains or on springtime ski treks to Mount Washington’s Tuckerman’s Ravine, he taught his daughters to always put one foot in front of the other, and never complain. That’s what he did, ’til his dying day.
He is survived by three daughters: Stephanie Hale of Boothbay Harbor, Maine; Melissa Hale-Spencer and her husband Gary Spencer of Altamont; and Heather Hale of Stowe, Vermont. Stephanie produced three grandsons, Peter Benoit of Washington, D.C.; Andre (Rugge) Benoit of Brooklin, Maine; and Edward Benoit of Boothbay Harbor. Melissa produced two granddaughters: Magdalena Hale Spencer of Princeton, New Jersey, and Saranac Hale Spencer of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Heather produced three grandsons: Benjamin Hutchins of East Burke, Vermont, John (Jake) Hutchins of East Burke, Vermont, and the late Sam Hutchins.
His family is grateful for the extraordinary and loving care provided him by Jill Bassett, Alice Forbes, and Jan Raykiewicz until his dying day. He was also helped by Dr. Chris Hyson, therapeutic massage therapist Marie McMahon, and physical therapist Hannah Smith.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Adirondack Mountain Club at 814 Goggins Rd., Lake George, NY 12845.