GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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April 26, 2013

Editor recalled as lifelong learner

MANCHESTER — Gordon Abbott Jr. was endlessly curious.

That’s what led him to leave business school after a year to become a reporter at the Gloucester Daily Times in 1956 and eventually become the editor of the Times and of the Beverly Times, as well.

“He loved journalism,” said his son, Chris. “He wanted to be enmeshed with the people and places of Cape Ann.”

Abbott, of Manchester, died last week from complications of prostate cancer after being diagnosed five years ago. He was 85.

Chris said his father worked for the local newspaper company from 1956 to 1966.

After a year of pursuing an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania, Abbott decided he didn’t want to be a “man in the gray flannel suit,” Chris said.

“He was an intensely curious person. He had a natural curiosity of people. Whenever we brought someone home, he would give them what we call the ‘Gordon Abbott Grilling.’”

The typical “grilling” included: Where did you grow up? Who are your parents? What are you reading? He’d also ask for their thoughts on what was going on in the world, Chris said.

Chris remembers the many times his father would leave the house in the middle of the night to cover house fires and other breaking news stories. As a newspaperman, Abbott was interested in the fishing industry, local politics and writing editorials that considered a “larger world view,” his son said.

He eventually left the paper to become the first director of the Trustees of Reservations.

In his 18 years, the organization became the largest independent owner of conservation land in the state.

Fred Winthrop of Ipswich said it was Abbott who paved the way for the organization’s growth and current success.

“He really did an amazing job of popularizing the trustees and expanding the number of reservations,” said Winthrop, who took over as director after Abbott. “He made it into a more active and professional organization. Before, it was mostly volunteer.”

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