Judy Magid, who wrote about Utah’s high society and her own family’s foibles in her 31 years at The Salt Lake Tribune, died Thursday at the age of 81, her family confirmed.
“She was a very good journalist in every way you could think of,” said Paul Rolly, the Tribune’s longtime political reporter and columnist. “Judy had a lot of class."
Magid started at The Tribune in 1976, writing for what was then called the Lifestyle section. One of her earliest bylines, on Dec. 24, 1976, was about the growing popularity of squash and racquetball. That was followed days later by a story about a man who played a musical saw, and an observational story about carpooling to take kids to school.
“Picture it,” Magid wrote in her carpooling story. “Sleepy children of any age. A sleepy mother, hurriedly dressed (the car pool mother lives in terror of being out of gas or having a flat tire while attired in curlers and a long nighty with a short robe) and a cold car. It’s not a great way to start the day.”
Such wry commentary became a staple for Magid. She wrote a personal column, “Musings,” in which she commented on day-to-day experiences of raising her four children after the death of her husband, Stanley, in 1982. The “Musings” column won Magid a first-place award for criticism and analysis from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Utah chapter in 1992.
It was one of many honors Magid received. She was given the Governor’s Media Award for reporting on women’s issues in 1990. The University of Utah’s Department of Communications gave her the Quintus C. Wilson Alumni Achievement Award in 2001. And the Utah Society of Fund Raisers honored her in 2004 as “Special Friend of Utah’s Non-Profit Community.”
The award from the fundraisers’ group stemmed from her work writing the Tribune’s R.S.V.P. column. Magid took over the column, which chronicled Utah’s wealthy and public-spirited on the charity party circuit, from Pat Capson in December 1993. When Magid retired in December 2007, the Tribune retired the column with her.
“She fit in with those people,” Rolly said, describing her trademark poise. “She mingled with them very well. She understood them.”
At one of the first parties she covered, she watched pop star Kenny Loggins sing “Happy Birthday” to Stein Eriksen, the founder of the Deer Valley ski resort, in English and Norwegian — and then saw Loggins impulsively donate an autographed guitar to the auction, which raised money to send the U.S. Ski Team to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.
Magid rubbed elbows comfortably with Utah’s 1%. At one of her first parties, Magid got philanthropist and homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson to admit that she once accidentally won a $500 silent auction for a leather jacket that belonged to the singer Dean Martin. “I didn’t know what to do with it, so I donated it to another charity auction,” Atkinson told Magid.
Terry Orme, former Tribune editor-in-chief, said Thursday that Magid embraced the R.S.V.P. beat because “she believed in the philanthropic causes they were raising money for.” Orme also noted that Magid was among the first Tribune reporters to shoot her own photos — something fairly routine today, in an age of smartphone cameras and depleted newsroom staffs.
Magid was born Judith Yetta Levine, in Salt Lake City, in 1938. She took to writing early, earning her first byline in the 5th grade at Wasatch Elementary School, her family said. She wrote for the school papers at Bryant Junior High and Olympus High School, and in 1958 was editor of the Daily Utah Chronicle, the University of Utah’s student paper.
Judith Levine married Stanley L. Magid, an ear, nose and throat doctor, on Nov. 15, 1960, in the Congregation Montefiore synagogue in Salt Lake City. They lived in Salt Lake City and Holladay, with short stints in San Diego (when Stanley was an intern) and Denver (where he had a residency). The couple had four children together.
Magid was a dedicated school volunteer, serving on the Cottonwood Elementary School PTA and as a guide at the Junior Science Academy at the Natural History Museum of Utah. In 1976, she ran for a seat on the Utah State Board of Education, to represent her district in and around Holladay. Shortly after the election — she came in eighth out of nine candidates in the September primary — Magid joined the Tribune staff, first as a part-time writer and eventually full time.
Stanley Magid died on March 14, 1982, in a skiing accident, leaving Judy to raise their children as a single mom. “Judy was the ultimate horse show mother, hitching up the trailer, loading horses, and getting the family to the show before sun-up,” the family wrote.
After Stanley died, former Tribune theater critic Nancy Melich said, “she often said to me that the Tribune was her salvation. The deadlines and all kept her going.”
Magid is survived by her four children — Jonathan, Stephanie, Sydney and Syvia — and their spouses; her brother, Michael; and five grandchildren.
Friends and family are invited to gather for services Sunday at 10 a.m., at Wasatch Lawn Memorial, 3401 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City. Interment will follow at Montefiore Cemetery, 1081 E. 4th Ave., Salt Lake City. An informal gathering to share stories also is set for Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Stoneground Kitchen, 249 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City. (Parking is available behind the building.)