It has been a long and proud career—32 years that took her from SI's lowest ranks to our topmost echelon—and now it is ending. Julia Lamb, who made history here in 1988 by becoming our first female assistant managing editor, will retire from SI at the end of this year and take up a new life in Maine, far from the stressful streets of Manhattan and, alas, far from us.
She joined the magazine in 1962, with a degree in medieval history from Vassar ("possibly my most useless accomplishment") and after an exotic year of travel to two dozen countries ("positively my most enthralling adventure"), which ended with her sailing into New York City on a Yugoslav freighter. Straight off the boat, she answered an ad for a copy girl's job at SI and, after what she calls "the first and only job interview I ever had," was working with us within the week. Her duties were at times less than all-consuming, and Lamb was able to read plenty of Dickens and Dumas in the downtime between copy deliveries.
Ah, but there was to be no rest for the talented, and she was soon promoted to reporter—thence to staff writer, associate editor, senior editor and AME. Through it all, she showed an affinity for sports watery or wintry. True, she wrote about other subjects—including the 1978 roller-skating boom—and she edited everything from gymnastics to parachuting. But it was water and snow that occupied her most: As reporter and editor, she covered boating, including half a dozen America's Cups, for almost 20 years; oversaw our ski coverage for 12; supervised 10 swimsuit issues, including the 282-page 25th anniversary edition; and thrice headed SI's team at the Winter Olympics.
Lamb was born and raised in tiny Michigan, N.Dak. (pop. 500), where snow covers the prairie pretty much from November to April. So the wintry part is perhaps understandable. But "I never saw an ocean until I went east to college," she says. "Then I visited Coney Island on the Fourth of July and glimpsed a little strip of blue water far away across a beach that was covered with oily bodies. When I was covering boating I got seasick at the slightest pitch of a deck, so I practically lived on Marezine. But I learned to love the sea, and maybe that's not so strange for a North Dakota girl: The ocean stretches out flat and open all the way to the horizon, just as the prairie does."
December 26, 1994
Still, she harbors no desires to return to Dakota. So she has chosen Wells, Maine, where she and a friend bought an 80-year-old, four-story Victorian house that stands on the brink of the pounding Atlantic. We hope it turns out to be an oceanic dream come true—without the Marezine. For our part, we are going to dearly miss her grace, her brains and, most of all, the indomitable optimism with which she has faced a life that has been, as she puts it, "full of ups and downs—just like the sea."