Irwin Robinson, Travel Weeklys founder, could not have known it at the time, but when he gave a writer/editor job to a former deejay in 1966, he was reaching into the future, into the next century.

Within a few years, the new kid at Travel Weekly became editor in chief. He stayed editor in chief for 25 years, and retained an active role in this newspaper thereafter as editorial director, advisor, columnist and friend.

Alan Fredericks, who died last week at the age of 70, was the third person to hold the job of editor. He followed two tough acts -- Robinson, the founder, and Wesley First, a former managing editor of the New York World Telegram. He not only rose to the challenge, but raised the bar.

Over the years, Alan Fredericks trained, supervised and influenced more journalists here than we can count. You see some of their names regularly in Travel Weekly. Alans legacy, a tradition of clear writing, factual reporting, fairness and integrity, is very much alive.

Whats gone is the wit, the wry humor, the knowing wink to fellow Yankee fans, the astonishing grab-bag of Broadway and show-biz trivia, the cannon of anecdotes about travel and travel people, the curiosity, the courtesy, the kindness.

A list of his better qualities can no more define a man, however, than it can explain the subtle power of his influence. Alan Fredericks began to leave an imprint on this publication over 30 years ago, in numerous direct and indirect ways.

He did so as editor and mentor, as a manager and promoter of people, as a defender of editorial prerogatives within the company, as an ambassador outside it.

Despite several changes of ownership and several complete turnovers in the management and staff, his stamp is upon us and we are proud to bear it.

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A few years ago, when Alan was no longer in charge of day-to-day operations, a big news story broke in the evening, after the last pages had been prepared and sent to the printer.

An editor, who was a few notches down from the top of the masthead, recognized that it was big news and starting calling other TW staffers at home and on their cell phones. Eventually, a skeleton crew was assembled to call the printer, work out a new deadline, write the story and redesign Page 1.

They worked late and produced a revised edition.

Alan later heard of the heroics and offered his congratulations, to which the editor replied, We just did what you would have done.

Maybe it sounded corny then, and maybe it sounds corny now, but its true. 

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One of the enduring stories that circulates in the Travel Weekly newsroom concerns an incident some decades ago, when a man called to complain that we had referred to him as the late so-and-so. He assured us he was not dead.

The phone call triggered a memorable conversation between Alan Fredericks and the then-managing editor, Darrell Leo, a newsroom wit who was beloved by all for his editorial skills and quick mind. When Alan brought up the matter of writing a retraction, Darrell came back with the deadpan retort: Well, its his word against ours.

Alan collected one-liners the way Mozart collected notes, so the story went into his vast repertoire of anecdotes; he delighted in the retelling of it.

When Darrell died of AIDS some years later, Alan recounted the story at the memorial service, telling those assembled that when Travel Weeklys newsroom received word that Darrell had died, our collective response was, Well, its their word against ours.

And that was our collective response to the news that Alan Fredericks had left us: Its their word against ours.

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