With a Heart Full of Gratitude, a Storehouse Full of Memories

Farewell and thanks for 36 incredible years

May 2021

Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Executive Editor

Life is filled with seasons. Seasons of listening and learning. Of hard work and growth. Of finding your place in the world. Of challenges, of setbacks, of successes, of transitions.

It is now time for me to move into the next season of my life after a tremendously rewarding 36-year career with the trade association that publishes this magazine, and also provides training, advocacy and other services to the 15 member-owned electric cooperatives in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

I have been blessed to do what I love, with and for people I respect and admire, in a business model focused on helping others. As the late folk singer John Prine asked in one of his classic songs, “How lucky can one man get?”

My career has been like a long, glorious summertime, days on end of sunshine and warmth, collaboration and accomplishment. And, of course, a few summer squalls, too, with claps of thunder and cracks of lightning. But those storms were few and passed quickly from the landscape.

A lot has changed since I became editor in April 1985. During the last few decades, as more people have moved to the countryside — to areas served by electric cooperatives — the magazine’s circulation has grown tremendously, from just over 200,000 when I started to almost 600,000 today, giving Cooperative Living by far the largest reach of any publication in Virginia or the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

We have added flourishes to improve the reading experience: more color photos and graphics, more features on interesting people and places, more interactive quizzes and contests, more content contributed by readers.

Our magazine website, co-opliving.com, has added a rich array of options for readers, including a digital edition of the magazine and content only available online. We have also developed a dynamic social media presence at facebook.com/cooperativeliving. And we plan to add more online resources moving forward.

I feel fortunate to have been part of such an incredible enterprise, doing work that I enjoy. While a 36-year tenure with one organization may seem impressive in its span, my love for writing and publishing dates back much farther, to childhood.

As preschoolers, my younger brother and I would sit beside our mother, listening as she read to us. Children’s magazines. Classic books. Bible stories. A few years later, in elementary school, my brother and I published our own neighborhood newsletter, using our mother’s manual typewriter, proudly selling the messy carbon copies to family members and friends.

Once whetted, albeit modestly, this passion to publish has continued unabated since. Through work on my high school newspaper and literary magazine. As an editor of my college newspaper. After college, as editor for seven years of the Virginia State Bar’s monthly magazine. And for 36 years, tending to this gem of a magazine that is small in size, but large in the loving care our staff gives to every issue.

For me, writing has always been an act of faith, extending an earnest hand into the darkness. Over and over, you the reader have given me a warm handshake in return.

So, as I conclude my long career, my heart is full of gratitude, and my mind’s storehouse is full of wonderful memories.

How lucky can one man get?


Richard welcomes emails at [email protected]