Chain of Thought

Mary Aichlmayr, 1975-2012: Done Too Soon

Death, as they say, is the great equalizer, as all of us will eventually pass away from this life to another state of being. At some point, everything we've always meant to do in our lives will no longer be achievable, and our future will cease to be a blank slate yet to be written. Our legacy will be whatever we've done, and whatever we haven't done. This happens to everybody, but for some it happens far too soon.

Mary Aichlmayr, staff editor on various Penton publications and chief editor of Material Handling Management (MH&L's predecessor) from 2008-2010, died unexpectedly and much too soon. She was only 37.

You would have had to go a long way to find a more passionate journalist within the material handling and logistics field. Mary lived and breathed the stories that she reported and followed, and as her boss for a couple of those years, I was always impressed by the fire in her eyes whenever she was hot on a story that she knew nobody else in the field was covering anywhere near as avidly. For instance, nobody but nobody covered the various pallet industry controversies with more fervor than Mary, whether it was the raging debate over fire codes, the incidence of bug infestations in wood pallets, or Johnson & Johnson's supply chain breakdown.

One of the first things I did when I became editorial director of MHM was to work with Mary on creating the “News Beat” section of the print magazine, which gave her more room to analyze the breaking news stories she had reported online. Her sense of what was important to MHM's readers was spot-on, and her ability to hone in on stories that deserved the deeper coverage that she brought to bear was impressive.

I learned that she came by her passion honestly, when I met her father at calling hours and learned that he had worked in the material handling field for many years, and that they had often discussed various topics that should be more heavily scrutinized than the popular press would ever do. But Mary was just as likely to follow up on a tip from the many industry sources she cultivated throughout her career as a business journalist. Mary was truly one of a kind, and I'll miss her.

I'm reminded of the closing lines of Neil Diamond's “Done Too Soon,” a song that begins with a bouncy melody as he runs through the names of many famous people, but then ends somberly with the lines, “Each one there has one thing shared: They all sweated beneath the same sun. Looked up in wonder at the same moon. And wept when it was all done, for being done too soon… for being done too soon.”

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