By Don Wallace
The scene: a parlor in a Portland, Maine, church. It is a Sunday evening in the early 1950’s; the pastor is opening a social meeting of a group of young people in their late teens and early twenties. As they sit in a quiet circle, the pastor starts the proceedings by stating that formal introductions are probably unnecessary since they doubtless know one another by now. However, one young man raises his hand, points across the room and says, “I don’t know that girl in the red dress,” which was the way the lives of Walter Mattson and Geraldine Horsman became entwined.
It turned out that they had gone to the same high school in Portland, Walt having arrived in town for his senior year after a much-traveled youth. Along the way he had shown an obsessive interest in newspapers and the printing business, delivering papers, working as a printer’s devil (one step below an apprentice) at his uncle’s weekly newspapers in Pittsburgh during the summer vacations and, after arriving in Portland, had landed a job at a commercial printing plant, with time out for active duty in the Marines during the Korean war. Once out of the service, and after he and Gerry had married, he attended college while working full-time nights as a linotype operator at the Portland Press Herald and she worked as a legal secretary with the lead lawyer in the largest firm in Portland.
After he graduated, they moved to Pittsburgh, where Walt worked as advertising manager of two weekly newspapers while attending Carnegie Mellon University at night and Gerry worked for a lawyer in the city. After that, they packed their bags and moved to Boston where Walt became assistant production manager at the Herald Traveler and attended Northeastern University at night where he earned an electrical engineering degree to go with his business/accounting degree. For extra money, Gerry typed theses and papers for Harvard Law School students. Then in 1960 came the big break: a job as assistant production manager of the New York Times. From then, the promotions came in quick succession until, in 1979, Walt was named president of the New York Times Company.
All this time, when she wasn’t busy packing and unpacking, Gerry was involved with their growing family, working as a school teacher and as a legal secretary—until they settled in Stamford, Connecticut, and eventually built a home complete with a tennis court and swimming pool. When the children were a little older, Gerry finished her work on a BA at the Stamford branch of the University of Connecticut.
Their introduction to Sarasota came in 1982, when Walt was involved in negotiating the purchase of the Sarasota Herald Tribune on behalf of the Times. In 1983 they bought a condo on Longboat Key, where they spent half of the year until Walt retired in 1993. The Mattson’s are the parents of three children, Stephen, William and Carol and have 11 grandchildren.
(A personal note: as a Times reader for some 65 years, I approached this biography with considerable trepidation, but found Walt and Gerry to be gracious, informal, plain-spoken and totally approachable. And so will you. – author, Don Wallace)