Tom Graham, former executive editor of the once vaunted Patuxent Publishing newspapers and a longtime editor of the health section at The Washington Post, died early Wednesday, June 22, at his home in Columbia.
He was attended by his wife, Mary Kay Sigaty, a former member of the Howard County Council, and their children, Eileen and Bridget Graham. It was the couple’s 48th wedding anniversary. Tom had just returned from a recent hospitalization for issues related to his five-year bout with cancer.
Tom was born April 7, 1951, in New York City, the second of four children to John and Mary Graham. He spent his childhood in New York City, where he grew up to be a devoted Yankees fan and attended the elite Regis High School, the free-tuition Jesuit school often ranked as the best Catholic high school in the country, with well-known graduates such as Dr. Anthony Fauci.
A philosophy major at Boston College, Tom met his wife and many lifelong friends while still a student. Years later, he would recall a campus protest that featured Mary Kay, a pretty activist with a bullhorn. Upon graduation, the couple married. By then, Tom had found his calling as well as his life partner.
A precocious journalist, Tom left Boston for a work-study position at the Howard County Times in 1971, where he distinguished himself as a reporter, attracting the attention of then Columbia Flier editor Jean F. Moon, who persuaded him to join the fledgling paper as its news editor in 1973.
Over the next 24 years, he reigned over an ever expanding editorial operation of 13 community newspapers in Howard and Baltimore counties. Under his leadership, what became the Patuxent Publishing Co. papers were perennial “Best in Show” awardees in the annual Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association contests. Tom later served as vice president of the MDDC Board of Directors.
In 1983, Tom was selected as the first recipient of the John Hay Whitney Fellowship at the International Herald Tribune, then a daily English-language newspaper published in Paris for readers living abroad. Tom, Mary Kay and new born daughter, Eileen, spent a year in Paris with Tom on the copy desk, editing text from around the globe. The young family, living in an apartment provided along with the job, earned a lifetime of memories, traveling throughout Europe before returning home to Columbia. Daughter Bridget was born in 1986.
Among reporters in the region, Tom was known for his steady, thoughtful and rigorous professionalism. “He was the best editor I ever had,” said award-winning novelist Carrie Brown, one of Tom’s writers in the ‘80s.
“Tom is the reason I moved to Columbia from Boston where I had met him at BC,” said Len Lazarick, founding editor of MarylandReporter.com and a managing editor under Tom at Patuxent Publishing. “Tom was a laid-back editor who wrote amazingly clean copy and knew how to cut the fat out of a story. I can’t remember him ever raising his voice – about anything.”
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