CRONKITE, COOKE AND GRIFFIN
Life Begins at 80 salutes three famous writers and broadcasters who led or are still leading active lives long after becoming octogenarians.
Veteran U.S. broadcaster Walter Cronkite, 87, was once voted "the most trusted man in America" in a magazine poll. "Twenty-three years after leaving his CBS Evening News anchor chair, broadcast journalism's closest approximation to a national treasure is enjoying a ripe senior citizenship," Steven Winn wrote last month in the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Freed from his TV persona as the orotund voice of reliability, Cronkite has forged a nimble, multifaceted identity. Part public affairs Brahmin, part syndicated pundit and part country-boy imp, he travels the country giving speeches, supporting favorite causes and cracking wise; writes a weekly opinion column that appears in 173 newspapers; produces documentaries for PBS, the Discovery Channel and other networks; and remains on the CBS payroll as a special correspondent."
Another radio and TV icon, British-born Alistair Cooke, 95, who died a few days ago, delivered a weekly broadcast, Letter from America, to a worldwide audience for 58 years - a world record for a spoken program. His commentaries on American culture and politics, spiced with witty remarks and personal reminiscences, have delighted listeners around the world.
Addressing the Royal Television Society in New York in 1997, he said "a wise old talks producer came to me and said, 'Cooke, a word in your ear. Could I give you a bit of advice?' I said, 'of course.' He said, 'don't get too popular . . . or they'll drop you.' Well, I've been working on that for 51 years!"
Discussing Cooke's decision to retire after making nearly 3000 broadcasts, Australian ABC presenter Mark Colvin said "At the age of 95, he's now too frail to continue with the weekly program that has become the longest-running series of broadcast talks in history.
"For his listeners outside the US, Alistair Cooke's weekly broadcasts were a window into America that only an outsider could open, even though he's been a US citizen since the 1940s. But Americans will miss his insights too."
In the United Kingdom, A. Harry Griffin, 93, still writes a fortnightly column, Country Diary, in the London Guardian, describing rural life in England's scenic Lake District.
Celebrating his column's 50th anniversary three years ago, he wrote:
POSTSCRIPT. A Harry Griffin died on July 9, 2004. This obituary was published in The Guardian.