Monday, September 21, 2015

Sidney Dominitz (1941 - 2015)

With son Zach 1985

 At poker 2005

With my father at Sid's BD party 2012

Sidney Dominitz, a revered teacher, editor and environmentalist, died Sept. 12, 2015 of complications from a heart condition. He was 74.

A fixture on the North Coast for roughly 40 years, Sid is remembered as a man whose sharp wit and warm heart spilled through his editing pen as he improved the work of those around him. A born copy editor, he devoted nearly three decades of his life to editing the Northcoast Environmental Center’s EcoNews, using his mastery of the English language and wealth of newspaper experience to fight for the forests, waterways and wildlife he loved.

The second child born to Wolf and Blanca Dominitz in New York City, Sid arrived in Humboldt County in 1976 and became captured by its rugged coastal beauty and counter-culture spirit. He joined the NEC as one of its only paid staff members that year, and went on to found its coastal cleanup programs and take EcoNews from a nonprofit newsletter to a respected environmental advocacy newspaper with a circulation of 8,500. Sid also became one of NEC Executive Director Tim McKay’s most trusted advisors. While it was McKay’s voice that became one of Humboldt’s most influential, his message always benefitted from Sid’s input and editing.

In 1978, Sid began lecturing at Humboldt State University, where he shared the knowledge picked up in his 11 years working as a newspaper editor, including six spent as the chief copy editor for Reuters’ London bureau. In the classroom, he developed a reputation as tough, demanding teacher, prone to telling underperforming students to pursue careers in the food service industry instead of journalism. The gruff classroom persona was never inherently mean or narcissistic; Sid just loved journalism too much and saw it as too important to be done poorly or ceded to people irreverent of its power. To students serious about mastering the craft, Sid gave his time generously, often continuing to do so long after they’d left his charge.

Those close to him will remember Sid for the passion that ran through every aspect of his life, whether it was editing pen in hand, on the basketball court, in the classroom, at the poker table or in his friendships; and for his rare mix of realism soaked in anti-corporate, anti-capitalist, anti-bureaucratic sentiment. But as long as you didn’t catch him at the lectern or his editing table, Sid exuded warmth and kindness, especially with children, with whom he had a gift for fostering special and quick connections. 

Sid is survived by his son, Zachary, whom he cherished, his older brother, Henry, and his ex-wife, Sydelle Lapidus. A ceremony honoring his life will be held at 2 p.m. on Sept. 19 at the Trinidad Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family asks those who feel compelled to make a donation to the NEC or plant a tree in his honor.

 (Special thanks to Sid's former student Thad Greenson for crafting this obituary)

A video of Sid's memorial and the celebration of his life that followed, by documentary filmmaker Eileen McGee is available online:

Read more here:

and RE Tim McKay, here:

and RE John Ross here:

...back together again.


By Jerry Martien.

(Read as eulogy at his memorial service)

Nature’s Editor

— for Sid 

a misplaced comma
a hastily chosen word
there goes your favorite beach

it matters that much

I used to refer to him as Sid the Knife. Not that he needed a knife, or even the red pen. He did it with words. Added words. Revised words. Deleted words. Now you hear it. Now you understand it. Like a magician, an editor shows you the cards you were holding.

the news flows from wild nature
the morning edition at your doorstep with the sun
in the evening you read it on the beach 
it rarely gets into print

He and John Ross got into huge arguments about articles John submitted to Econews. John would go through hell for a byline, and sometimes that became the story. He was a jazz poet and a pamphleteer, and like many of us he learned at the Econews to be a reporter. Your editor is your dear friend.

accuracy is learned from nature
every word exactly where it’s supposed to go
every sharp tooth, every eye
looking out for strays

When my five-year-old granddaughter was visiting I introduced her to Sid. She was still talking baby talk, not ready to give up infancy. The family was letting her grow out of it. But he mercilessly made fun of her r’s that sounded like w’s, mimicked her till she had to laugh. Next time I saw her she was talking like the rest of us. Your editor is the crazy uncle who can say things no one else will tell you.

an unreported wolf or mountain
is a dead wolf, a treeless mountain
in the Econews
they at least had half a chance

it matters that much

He and John were the last prophets, wandering in the land of the lumberjacks. They had an editorial comment for every rock and tree and bird. Sid’s jokes were often puns, some real groaners. When he heard a juice bar had opened in Arcata, “At last,” he said, “a place of our own.” An editor knows the absurdity of language. It’s all made up. Every word gets deleted. Every day is a rewrite.

in a wilderness not of our devising
we live by compassion and wit and accurate reporting

One September afternoon I followed the obits from the Trinidad cemetery along Stagecoach Road and down to the beach. From there I floated out to the downstream end of the world, where they say the news is always good. Food and card games and dancing. I was long past deadline and way over on my word count. Sid was already there. Your editor is the first person you meet in heaven.

Jerry Martien