(Some of) What I knew about Jeffrey McManus

Last night while checking Facebook, I read this request from the current Daily Nexus editor in chief.

Hey All,

This Wednesday, we will be printing one of our few summer issues. We decided to run a tribute for Jeffrey McManus in our Opinion section.. It’ll be memorial detailing some of his life and the memories we shared with him. So I thought it be a good idea if any of you could contribute to this, whether it’s a memory ou shared with him or whatever else you’d like to say about him. Any input would be very much appreciated, so as to provide as detailed and respectful of a tribute as possible.

Thanks everyone and take care!

Marissa Wenzke

Like many of my favorite people, Jeff and I originally became friends because of the Nexus. I responded to Marissa with the following:

Hi Marissa,

Thank you for doing a write up about Jeff for the summer edition of the Nexus. I know it would have meant a lot to him.

As requested on your Facebook post, here are my thoughts. I’m CC’ing Tom Nelson (good friend to Jeff, fellow Nexite, and current Loyola Marymount director of student media) to make sure I didn’t mess up any details here…

Jeff started at UCSB twenty years before I arrived, and officially graduated one year after I had left. After all those years, he tenaciously came back to finish what he started. He told me that he wanted to be a good role model for his two kids. He talked about their education all the time, and how important education was for society. He was dedicated to education. And community. And he was dedicated to the Nexus.

He had been a writer and editor in the heyday of the Nexus 1980s, starting his career just as Chancellor Huttenback was getting kicked to the curb. He was one of the original Nexus technology buffs. As Tony Pierce recently wrote on his blog, Jeff was “one of the few people who, in the 80s, knew how to work the sole Mac” in the office. He worked on the paper while paying his way through school as, in his own words, a “One-Man Temp Agency” for professors and administrators on campus… often as “the tech guy” for new computer systems.

He took a break from all this – and accepted that he’d have to miss a final and fail a class – so that he could fly to Germany and cover the fall of the Berlin Wall. A number of Nexites around that time got a similar idea, and ended up staying in Europe to start an English newspaper in Prague. Some are still there to this day – well, at least one that I know of.

Jeff remained in journalism for about a year and a half after leaving UCSB. He worked at the Camarillo Daily News which eventually got folded up into the Ventura County Star. He went north like many of us post-UCSB and settled in San Francisco. From then on, he worked in tech, and like every single community he touched, made a good name for himself. We once joked that he was a Silicon Valley D-List celebrity.

Meanwhile, he continued to help college journalism programs. For instance, was a judge for the California College Media Association in 2010. He and Tom even helped me out when A.S. tried to take away our funding in 2007 (http://dailynexus.com/2007-01-18/as-votes-to-restrict-nexus-assets/). I hadn’t met them in person at that point, just email, but they put themselves out there regardless.

Jeff continued to fiercely support the Nexus community two decades after he had hung up his reporter badge. A number of Nexus EICs and other editors have made a tradition of getting a Nexus tattoo after they had completed their year(s) of service. If he had believed in an immortal soul, I’m sure Jeff would have thought it the perfect place for just such a decoration.

In 2011, he and I and a few other dedicated Ghosts of Nexus Past organized the first legit alumni event the paper had had in a long time. We organized it together the next two years running. In fact, the last time we spoke in person – and between buying each other rounds – we were talking about what speaker we wanted to invite for Nexus Reunion 2014.

Jeff created and managed DailyNexus.org, the Facebook group for Nexus alums, and @DailyNexusAlum on Twitter. He was dedicated to seeing the Nexus support network grow bigger and better year after year.

He was also dedicated to the current staff and their needs, and frequently talked about organizing new media training days for Nexites and building resources for the editors – financial and otherwise. As an “intellectual exercise” he also recently began coding up a replacement website for DailyNexus.com in Python to give improved performance to the paper’s online presence. I don’t know if he finished this.

Jeff was a modern day patron saint of the paper. And he was one of the best friends I’ve ever had.

Rereading what I’ve just written about Jeff, I wish instead that I had told you a dozen funny anecdotes about him because that would have more clearly shown you who he was, and I think it’s how he would have wanted to be remembered. But right now it’s hard to put those thoughts down. I’m devastated that he’s gone. And I’m heartbroken. And everything around me reminds me of another “Jeff story”. I recently read a short poem that fits how I feel all too well: “Your absence goes through me like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.”

Thank you again for writing about Jeff. I can’t think of a more perfect way to remember him than through the paper he loved so much.

Cheers and much love,

Kaitlin Pike
Nexus EIC, 2006-2007

Jeff’s amazing wife, Carole, and his sister, Jill, are organizing a memorial this Friday at 6 pm at the Verdi Club in SF. In true McManus fashion, the dress code: Wear a funny t-shirt.

From Jill: “In lieu of flowers, donations can be made directly to Carole for Revelin and Celeste’s college fund. Thank you to all who have donated so far. Carole is feeling very supported by you.”

PayPal to: carolen@well.com

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