Steve Myrick died last week. A gifted journalist, he had endured a long and debilitating battle with cancer. I had the pleasure of working as a reporter with Steve for eight years after he joined the Martha’s Vineyard Times staff in 2007, and we’ve been friends as well as colleagues ever since.
A bearded, bearish man, Steve walked into The Times newsroom hoping to start a new life on Martha’s Vineyard, and get hired as a reporter. He had sailed from Newburyport to Vineyard Haven Harbor on his sailboat, the Snappy Lede, with his daughters Rebecca (Becky), 19, and Allison (Alli), 17, and a ginger cat, Joe, as his crew.
News editor Nelson Sigelman, also then the father of a teenage daughter, later told Steve that he was more impressed by Steve’s ability to take a three-day trip on a sailboat with two teenage girls than all the rest of his journalist credentials.
Steve took a gamble and accepted a part-time position, which put him in line for full-time reporter a few months later. He had spent 20-plus years at WBZ-TV in Boston, writing for the evening news. At The Times, Steve blossomed as he wrote stories meaningful to the small and tightly knit Island community, and covered meetings and issues that might have gone unnoticed without his attention.
He and I developed a longstanding tradition of getting lunch together on Thursdays, rehashing the week’s events and finding lots to laugh about. He passed the test of great friendship the first time he agreed to help me proofread a table of state testing scores for Island schools for one of my articles.
Steve continued to cover horseracing for trade magazines and newspapers while at The Times, as he had enjoyed for decades, planning his vacation days around major races. The colorful details in his articles made you feel as though you were there.
Photography was another of his joys, both on the job and off. As his stunning collection of Island photos grew, he began showing his work in various local venues, and selling prints online.
That’s when I discovered he was a good salesman as well. At my house one day, he complimented a framed photo of the beloved ferry Islander. “That’s beautiful; now all you need is my photo of the Island Home over here,” Steve said, with a nod toward an adjacent blank wall. I ordered a print that day.
As someone who appreciated good bourbon, fine craft beers, and sports, Steve enjoyed all three at Offshore Ale Co., in an atmosphere warm from the blazing fireplace in winter, the pizza oven, and the camaraderie of its patrons. He was like “Norm” in the popular TV series “Cheers,” where everybody knew his name. Last Thursday and Friday nights, Offshore Ale front of house manager David Rolanti and the staff honored Steve with an empty barstool with a photo of him and one of his favorite beers, “Miss Behavin’,” in front of it.
Steve always ran into someone he knew, and talked to someone he didn’t, picking up new story ideas, sources, and friends along the way. He was a good storyteller and an even better listener, which served him well in gathering the details that enhanced his reporting.
Steve loved the variety in writing for The Times, loved that he might write about the courts, police, firefighters, Oak Bluffs town government, and/or the Dukes County Commission one week, and then a sports event, people down on their luck, or maybe even a visiting president the next. He had found and appreciated a sense of community on the Island.
A prolific reporter, Steve scoffed at the notion of writer’s block, which I discovered when I gave him a bottle of red wine by that name for his birthday one year. He said he believed a writer just has to sit down and start typing, and the words will come. “But don’t worry; I’ll have no problem drinking the wine,” he added with a laugh.
Former Times editor and co-publisher Doug Cabral paid tribute on his Facebook page to Steve last week, describing him as a natural in the news business. “He knew what was news and what wasn’t, and instinctively he understood how to report it and write it,” Cabral wrote. “It was one of his gifts. All this in a challenged life that might have undone a less durable, less humane person.”
Among those challenges was the death of his daughter Alli, murdered in 2010 when she was a college freshman. The whole Times staff came together to support Steve, for which he was very grateful. When people struggled with what to say, he put them at ease, even when it came to his own grave personal loss.
In a conversation last week, his daughter Becky told me she wanted people to know that although her dad continued to grieve for Alli, “he wasn’t waylaid by it too much to be able to still find joy in life.”
I retired from The Times in 2014, and Steve left a year later to join the Vineyard Gazette staff. He worked there as a reporter, and then senior writer, until 2019. He retired as his cancer worsened.
Although life dealt him many blows, Steve allowed himself no self-pity. When I called him a few weeks ago on his birthday, he told me to never feel sorry for him and what he was going through, because he was so lucky to be living with Becky, his son-in-law James, and granddaughter Rosie, and with the best of care.
Steve and his daughters used to make a game of looking for the first evening star while lying on his sailboat in Vineyard Haven Harbor. After Alli died, Becky said she and her dad continued the game, wherever each one of them was, and always tried to be the first to text the other upon spotting one. “After Alli died, it was our thing, like she was saying hi to us,” she said. “Now, I’ll be looking for two.”