Bill Greer, the former assistant managing editor for projects at the Palm Beach Post, as well as a longtime editor for The Miami Herald, died Saturday at the age of 65.
Death was the result of a staph infection that followed back surgery several months ago.
Widely beloved for his soft Southern manner and tender care for every sentence fragment and semi-colon, Mr. Greer specialized in shepherding into print very long stories from very nervous writers.
“He had many strengths,” said Bill Rose, former Palm Beach Post managing editor, and a colleague of Mr. Greer’s at The Herald in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. “Mainly, he was a writer’s editor. Writers loved him because he was one of the few editors who could edit in the writer’s style. He could look at a writer’s mind and see what they saw - the clack and purr of words in a stylish sentence.”
At The Herald, Mr. Greer was, variously, features editor as well as national editor and enterprise editor.
“News is a processed commodity,” said Rose, “but he understood that news stories didn’t have to be dull, that they were above all stories and they needed to hook the reader and keep them interested.”
Mr. Greer, a resident of Delray Beach, came to the Post in 1995. In addition to serving as assistant managing editor for projects and weekends, Mr. Greer was wise in the ways of the world as well as the ways of the newsroom. People regularly went to him for advice on everything from problems at home to problems in their profession.
“Bill was one of the great guidepost editors whose love of storytelling reinforced the reasons why I’m a journalist,” said Liz Balmaseda, food editor for the Post, who won a Pulitzer Prize while being edited by Mr. Greer at The Herald. “As an editor, he brought calm and focus to even the most deadline-crazed day. And it was his serenity and eagerness to listen to even the longest story pitches that allowed those stories to reach their full potential. He was one of the most generous editors in time and in spirit that I’ve ever had.”
The son of a Baptist minister, Mr. Greer was born in Charleston, Miss. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he was editor of the student newspaper. His career included stints at the Commercial Appeal in Memphis and working for the Democratic Party in South Carolina.
Since his retirement from the Post in 2008, Mr. Greer edited books for several former colleagues, played cards and basked in the quiet pleasures provided by his crew of three rescued Greyhounds.
He is survived by his sisters Judy McHenry and Becky Sproles of Atlanta, his partner of more than 35 years, Mike Howard, and longtime friend and housemate Norma Smith.
Mr. Greer requested no funeral services. In lieu of flowers, he had asked that donations be made to Mission: Dignity, which provides services and comfort to retired Southern Baptist ministers and their widows, or a charity of your choice. The address for Mission: Dignity is 2401 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas, TX 75201.
The family invites his friends to a gathering at his home, 319 Homewood Blvd., Delray Beach FL 33445, Monday between 3-5 p.m.