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Julie Green, former Times editor, dies at 77

As letters editor of the Los Angeles Times, Julie Ryan Green saw every reader’s message imaginable.

The letters to the editor—hundreds a day—were short and sassy, ​​long and angry. They were sent by email, post and fax. And they mostly belonged to the boys.

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

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

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

Green spent 18 years at The Times, beginning in 1990 as assistant editor-in-chief for the much-loved, 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 shooting in North Hollywood. It won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage.

“She was a journalist at heart,” said Peck. ‘She didn’t give a shit. She just did. It was what she loved.”

Born in January 1946, Green spent her early childhood on a date farm in the Coachella Valley, where her father and uncle were farmers.

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

In 1967, Green was the first to graduate from Pepperdine University’s newly established 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 following year.

Julie worked as an information officer at UC Riverside for several years, 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 received a call from the Press-Enterprise asking if he wanted to write a column at his home in Riverside. They sold the house two weeks later and moved it back to Southern California.

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

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

“She was kind of like a rock in the surf the Valley editionJohn Arthur, a former editor in chief, said of Green. “She was just a nice person and a good editor.”

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

The popular series commemorated the bicentenary of the San Fernando Mission, which was founded on September 8, 1797. People profiled included Valley residents Lucille Ball and Robert Redford, as well as Sabu Dastagir, an actor known for venting his pet elephant along Winnetka Avenue in Chatsworth.

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

“It really appealed to her amazing organizational skills to pull that off,” says Padilla, who now edits The Times’ signature Column One articles. “It went off without a fight. Readers loved it. Everyone on staff had to write one; she drove our editors, reporters, and even our librarian into the Valley edition.

Green was thrilled to share the story 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 a recipe for a baked dessert that was usually made in bulk for a school cafeteria.

The recipe was recalibrated so people could make it on a smaller scale at home. Green – a gifted baker – forgot to reduce the amount of baking soda, and the newspaper was inundated with calls from readers whose baked goods exploded in their ovens.

Green, whose last role at The Times was letters editor, retired in 2008. A lover of theater and film, she was a voracious reader who completed over 230 books as part of an old book club with friends.

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

The surgeries, radiation and pain that followed her 2019 cancer diagnosis were devastating, Peck said, but “she handled it so gracefully and with 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 surrounded by family and friends.

“She was one of those ‘you all come’ people,” Peck said. “Everyone was there; there was never a ‘No, I’m not inviting them.’ She was, “Sure, we can have it at my place.” She was so poor around everyone.”