The Passing of a Friend

Feb. 1, 2002
There is a long-standing policy at Offshore Magazine that we are not to speak in the first person. Leonard LeBlanc would not tolerate personal opinions appearing in a technology magazine.
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There is a long-standing policy at Offshore Magazine that we are not to speak in the first person. Leonard LeBlanc would not tolerate personal opinions appearing in a technology magazine. However, I think it is important that we make a one-time exception to this rule and speak about the loss of a friend.

Our Editor-in-Chief Leonard LeBlanc announced two-years ago that he had been diagnosed with cancer. I remember being shocked at the time, not so much by the announcement, but by how it was made. He brought it up at our monthly editorial meeting as if it were a forgotten agenda item. He quickly ran down the specifics of his disease, then immediately went in to a detailed description of how the magazine is produced. He asked that we all take notes on the different tasks involved in case he were out of the office for an extended period.

Up to the very end of his life, this was Leonard LeBlanc. He was a truly dedicated man. He had a passion for this magazine that transcended what most of us think of as a job. There was no time in his life for self-pity, or fear. He had a magazine to get out.

Two weeks before he died, we spoke briefly on the phone. He had been admitted to the hospital. He was very weak and in some pain. But Lenny didn't want to talk about his pain or his illness. He wanted to know if the page proofs had been read, and he reminded me that we had a deadline to meet.

Leonard LeBlanc came to Offshore in the spring of 1976 as a News Editor. He worked here, continually improving our product, for 25 years. It was his passion and his commitment that raised the magazine to its current position as industry leader. By the time I wandered into his office, Offshore had momentum behind it and a half-dozen people on the editorial staff.

When I first met Lenny, in 1996, he had just lost his newsletter editor and was training a new assistant. This meant, in addition to running the magazine, he was writing stories and producing three weekly newsletters by himself. I lost count of how many times my job interview was interrupted by the ringing of his phone.

Between incoming calls, Lenny asked if I could start work later that day. I told him I didn't know anything about the oil business. "Yeah, but you're a journalist. You can learn." With that he stood up and began thumbing through the tightly packed bookshelves behind his desk, pausing occasionally to snatch a dusty volume off the shelf. I went home that night with a new career and about 20 pounds of engineering textbooks.

"You think you can handle it?" That was the perennial question. Lenny loved to challenge you. There is a tremendous amount of turnover in this business. Every time the market improves, you can count on losing at least one of your best writers to a service company or a driller. When this happened Lenny would show up in my office with a stack of reading material and a new job title. He knew he had me for life. I couldn't go to the service side if I wanted to. After all, I wasn't an oilman; I was a journalist.

In the five years I worked for Lenny, he never once criticized me, never raised his voice, and was never too busy to talk. I would make horrible mistakes, errors in judgment, and simple blunders. He would just take me aside, explain what was wrong, and tell me, "If you work here long enough, you're going to make mistakes."

Coming from a business famous for its crazy bosses, I was accustomed to managing editors who expressed themselves by throwing things at me. This man, I thought, is something else. As I grew more confident, Lenny rewarded me with more and more independence. I saw not only my career, but those of my co-workers blossom under his careful guidance. He seemed to have the interests of the magazine and those of his employees always in the forefront of his mind.

Lenny told me at OTC last year that it was time to think about the future of the magazine. I was shocked all over again to think of him someday not being here to answer my stupid questions or share my enthusiasm for a story I was chasing. Now he's gone. We all know what to do. We'll get the magazine out on time. We'll keep writing stories and selling ads, choosing cover photos, and fighting deadlines. Lenny taught us all very well. We know how to put out a magazine, but how do we get over the loss of our friend?