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Julie Green, former Times editor, dies at 77

Julie Green smiles for a portrait.
Julie Green spent 18 years at The Times, starting in 1990 as an assistant features editor for the San Fernando Valley edition.
(Uncredited)
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As the Los Angeles Times’ letters editor, Julie Ryan Green saw every type of reader missive imaginable.

The letters to the editor — hundreds each day — were short and cheeky, long and angry. They were emailed, snail-mailed and faxed. And they were mostly from the guys.

When The Times expanded its letters section in 2006, Green posed the question: “Most of our mail, by the way, comes from men. Why? Do they have more free time, or are they just more opinionated?”

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Green, a longtime editor at The Times who was known for her sense of humor and her generosity, died Feb. 26 while under hospice care in Chicago. She was 77.

The cause was brain cancer, said her sister, Margo Peck.

Green spent 18 years at The Times, starting in 1990 as an assistant features editor for the much-beloved, now-defunct San Fernando Valley edition, which had a fully staffed newsroom in Chatsworth.

In 1997, she helped edit coverage of a bank robbery and subsequent police shootout in North Hollywood. It won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

“She was a journalist through and through,” Peck said. “She didn’t beat the drum about it. She just did it. It was what she loved.”

Green, who was born in January 1946, spent her early childhood on a date farm in the Coachella Valley, where her father and uncle were ranchers.

Her parents later moved her and her four brothers and two sisters to Riverside, where she graduated from high school and attended community college while working her first newspaper job: editing the TV log for the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

In 1967, Green became the first to graduate from Pepperdine University’s newly-created journalism program.

The day after graduation, she went back to the Press-Enterprise, where she met Tom Green, an editor and writer. They married the next year.

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Julie spent several years working as a public information officer at UC Riverside, and work later took her and Tom to upstate New York. They eventually landed in Ohio, where Tom wrote a column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Julie juggled freelance work and raising their two young children.

In the middle of a blizzard in 1979, Tom got a call from the Press-Enterprise asking if he wanted to write a column back home in Riverside. They sold the house two weeks later and hightailed it back to Southern California.

The Greens settled in Los Angeles in 1982. Tom helped open an L.A. bureau for USA Today and wrote about film, and Julie worked as an editor for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, then the Daily News.

When Green came to The Times in 1990, the newspaper had more than 100 employees in the San Fernando Valley bureau and was competing in a fierce circulation battle with the Daily News. She edited a section called “Valley Life!”

“She was kind of a rock in the Valley edition,” John Arthur, a former managing editor, said of Green. “She was just a lovely person and a good editor.”

In 1997, Green, then an assistant city editor, oversaw a 200-part series called the Valley 200 — daily profiles of people who had lived in or left a mark on the San Fernando Valley.

The popular series commemorated the bicentennial of the San Fernando Mission, which was founded on Sept. 8, 1797. Among those profiled were Valley residents Lucille Ball and Robert Redford, as well as Sabu Dastagir, an actor who was known for walking his pet elephant down Winnetka Avenue in Chatsworth.

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Green handled the series, which was produced by more than 60 writers, “with good cheer,” said Steve Padilla, who was city editor of the Valley edition at the time.

“It really spoke to her amazing organizational skills to be able to pull that off,” said Padilla, who now edits The Times’ signature Column One features. “It went off without a hitch. Readers loved it. Everyone on the staff had to write one; she corralled our editors, reporters, even our librarian in the Valley edition.”

Green delighted in sharing the tale of what she called her biggest mistake as an editor, former colleagues said.

She was working for the Riverside newspaper early in her career when she read over a recipe for a baked dessert that was usually made in large quantities for a school cafeteria.

The recipe had been recalibrated for people to make on a smaller scale at home. Green — a gifted baker — forgot to reduce the amount of baking soda, and the paper was inundated with calls from readers whose baked goods exploded in their ovens.

Green, whose final role at The Times was letters editor, retired in 2008. She was a lover of the theater and cinema, and she was a voracious reader who finished more than 230 books as part of a longtime book club with friends.

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Peck said her sister was a devout Catholic who spent much of her time volunteering at food pantries.

The surgeries, radiation, and pain that followed her 2019 cancer diagnosis were devastating, Peck said, but “she handled it so gracefully and with just a spirit of acceptance.”

In November, Green moved to Chicago to be closer to her two grandsons, whom she adored. She was always happiest when she was surrounded by family and friends.

“She was one of those ‘y’all come’ kind of people,” Peck said. “Everybody was included; there was never a, ‘Nope, I’m not inviting them.’ She was, ‘Sure, we can have it at my house.’ She was so arms around everybody.”

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