Jim Hoover, publisher of South End News; at 53

Born in Chicago, Jim Hoover landed in Boston in the late 1970s as a disco-loving club deejay with no training in journalism. Born in Chicago, Jim Hoover landed in Boston in the late 1970s as a disco-loving club deejay with no training in journalism.
By J.M. Lawrence
Globe Correspondent / April 24, 2009
  • Email|
  • Print|
  • Single Page|
  • |
Text size +

Former South End News publisher Jim Hoover, who transformed a fledgling newspaper in the 1980s called Bay Windows into the largest gay and lesbian newspaper in the region, has died of multiple myeloma at age 53.

Mr. Hoover, who was first diagnosed in 2002 with a late-stage form of the cancer, died Sunday at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Born in Chicago, Mr. Hoover started out in Boston in the late 1970s as a disco-loving club deejay with no training in journalism.

He was drawn into the newspaper business when he dated Skip Rosenthal, founding publisher of South End News, and worked as the paper's business manager in the early 1980s.

Mr. Hoover bought Bay Windows in 1985 just as the AIDS epidemic was exploding. He had a deep sense of how a community newspaper could unite people, said Jeff Epperly, a former Bay Windows editor.

"Jim was this club deejay who took over this little newspaper at this horrible but hopeful time when the mainstream press was doing very little, if any, reporting on issues of importance to our community," Epperly said.

"Jim felt that our goal at the paper was not just to inform people, but also to help them understand how not alone we all were and how connected we all were by this one unimportant thing that colored how the world treated us," he said.

Mr. Hoover, who became publisher of the South End News in 1984, moved his newspapers to a new prominent home on Tremont Street in September 1997. Mayor Thomas M. Menino issued a proclamation marking the moment as South End News/Bay Windows Day in Boston.

In a statement about Mr. Hoover's death, the mayor said, "Jim Hoover was a pioneer in Boston's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, and his voice, charisma, and passion for equality will be dearly missed."

Menino said Mr. Hoover will be remembered for his warmth, compassion, and activism for equal rights.

As a businessman, Mr. Hoover had a soft heart for down-on-their-luck advertisers and let many slip by without paying their bills, according to Epperly.

But Mr. Hoover kept a strong wall between sales and editorial and never asked his staff to soften a story to please an advertiser, said Epperly, who left the paper in 2002.

In a letter to Bay Windows, Rosenthal recounted first meeting Mr. Hoover at a disco convention in New York City in 1976 and asking him to move to Boston. The South End News was born in 1980 in the kitchen of the home they shared on East Springfield Street before they split in 1985.

"James was strong, consistent, loving, caring, and faithful. I've missed him greatly since that day I drove off in 1985. The world is definitely dimmer without Jim's sweet smiling face to brighten it," said Rosenthal, who lives in El Paso.

Mr. Hoover grew up in suburban Chicago in Hinsdale, Ill. He was the only son of Richard and Charlotte.

His sister Pam, of Overland Park, Kan., said he had a "gorgeous singing voice" and won the lead role in his high school's spring musical as a freshman.

Mr. Hoover graduated in 1974 from Hinsdale Township High School Central. He attended the University of Illinois and studied music production at Northeastern University in Boston in the 1980s.

Mr. Hoover enjoyed making surprise visits to see his parents over the years, his sister said. He helped her cope with a divorce in 1988 and frequently dropped his work in Boston to visit.

"Family was very important to him, and he was very important to us," she said.

In the late 1990s, Mr. Hoover met his partner, James Kubesch, a pilot for Cape Air.

"I was his pilot to Provincetown," Kubesch said. "I always put the cute ones up front with me."

The men were joined in a commitment ceremony in 2000 at Arlington Street Church, surrounded by their families.

By 2002, Mr. Hoover was reeling from his diagnosis and the post-9/11 economy when he sold his newspapers to publishers Sue O'Connell and Jeff Coakley, Kubesch said.

Mr. Hoover eventually had to acknowledge he could not run the papers and handle his illness at the same time. "He loved the city, and it was very hard for him," Pam said. "He couldn't do both, and that became apparent."

Mr. Hoover retired to Provincetown and sought new treatments. He had two stem-cell transplants at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and participated in several drug trials.

"One of the things that kept him going through all those awful years was the thought that he might help someone else from going through the same thing," Kubesch said.

Despite his sickness, Mr. Hoover kept traveling and enjoying his favorite things, including the latest high-tech gadgets. His determination to soldier on was inspiring, his sister said.

"If he heard me talk like this, he'd hate it," she said. "He'd tell you, with a smile on his face, he'd much rather be the sinner than the saint."

In addition to his sister and his partner, Mr. Hoover leaves his mother, Charlotte of Lee's Summit, Mo.; and another sister, Peggy Varela of Fort Collins, Colo.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. today in Provincetown at Unitarian Universalist Meeting House.

As Mr. Hoover requested, a dance party will follow at the A-House club featuring a special "Jim Hoover" set by deejay David LaSalle.