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Milt Joffe, 78, Buffalo News copy desk chief for more than four decades

Aug. 12, 1941 — Sept. 6, 2019

When Milt Joffe retired in 2014 after 51 years at The Buffalo News, most of it spent in charge of the copy desk, Editor and Vice President Mike Connelly estimated that Mr. Joffe had read millions of words and hundreds of thousands of headlines.

"Every night, in ways large and small, Milt has ensured that our facts are right, our credibility is intact and The News is the authoritative voice of the community," Connelly said.

Besides being a stickler for spelling, grammar and style, Mr. Joffe was known as a generous mentor of young staffers.

Mr. Joffe died Sept. 6, 2019, in Erie County Medical Center after a car crash Aug. 27. He was 78.

"He was committed to print journalism — that was his passion," said Susan Joffe, Mr. Joffe's wife of 54 years. "But he also loved sports, especially baseball."

A native of Ware, Mass., he was the son of David N. and Edith Swanson Joffe.

Mr. Joffe graduated from Ware High School in 1959, where he played on the baseball team. At Syracuse University, where he studied in the School of Journalism, he was a member of the Beta Sigma Rho fraternity. He held several editorial positions on the Daily Orange, including editor in chief.

From 1958 to 1960, Mr. Joffe played saxophone and clarinet with the Golden Stars Orchestra in Ware, until the band disbanded. His next job was as heel stacker and rack pusher at the Ware Shoe Co., where his father was comptroller. In his job application at The News, he wrote that while he appreciated the experience in manual labor, he disliked the "bad pay and wearisome work."

Mr. Joffe spent the summers of 1961 and 1962 as an intern at The News. After graduating from Syracuse University, he was hired in June 1963 as a full-time copy editor.

Mr. Joffe spent a year with the Army Reserves in 1964, then returned to work at The News as "one of the best craftsmen we have ever had," wrote then-Managing Editor Elwood Wardlow, who added, "I have never heard a negative word from anyone, at any level, about this man."

Mr. Joffe became chief copy editor in 1967, but he moved to sports in December 1977, when the News' Sunday newspaper was just over a month old. News Editor Murray B. Light wrote that as sports editor, Mr. Joffe "successfully engineered the difficult transition of a sports staff geared to a six-day operation to one operating five afternoons and two mornings a week."

In 1981, Mr. Joffe was elected vice chairman of the New York-New England Region of the Associated Press Sports Editors group. That year, he received the J. Michael Heinike Memorial Award from the Syracuse Club of Buffalo.

Mr. Joffe returned to his position as copy desk chief in August 1981. He also worked as central desk administrator, playing a major role in planning and implementing the newsroom's new computer systems. Light wrote, "Joffe is one of the most capable desk persons in the business, and we have great confidence in his ability to handle his difficult new assignment."

In 1988, Mr. Joffe began a column "On the Line," offering his picks for the weekend NFL games. In announcing the column, Light called Mr. Joffe "an astute student of professional football."

In a 2003 column about accuracy, Margaret Sullivan, then Buffalo News editor, noted that editors trained by Mr. Joffe "refer to Joffe's Rule: 'There's always one more mistake.' "

He met his wife, Susan Weinberg, at Syracuse University when they both worked on the Daily Orange. They married June 27, 1965, in the Park Lane on Gates Circle.

Mr. Joffe was active in Temple Beth Zion. As chairman of the temple's Bulletin Committee, he edited the monthly bulletin for 40 years; he was a temple trustee and vice president of the Temple Beth Zion Brotherhood; and he served on the Jewish Center's Youth Services Committee. In 1986, he won the temple brotherhood's Maurice Tabor Man of the Year award.

Mr. Joffe was an avid fan of professional baseball, especially the San Francisco Giants, because all three of the couple's children live in San Francisco, Susan Joffe said.

He retired from The News in 2014.

"He could always do the New York Times crossword puzzle from beginning to end," said his wife. He had a knack for jigsaw puzzles, completing 1,000-piece puzzles, and Sudoku. He was also an avid viewer of "Jeopardy"and "knew most of the answers," his wife said.

Mr. Joffe was also a dedicated friend to several people with health challenges, including a cousin, a neighbor and a former co-worker whom he visited weekly, his wife said. "He was really a wonderful friend to people in need," she said.

Besides his wife, Mr. Joffe is survived by a son, Michael; two daughters, Karen and Hallie; four grandchildren; his sister, Marilyn Kay; and many cousins.

A funeral will begin at 11 a.m. Monday in Temple Beth Zion, 805 Delaware Ave.

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