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John M. Taylor Funeral Home

147 Duke OF Gloucester ST, Annapolis, MD

OBITUARY

Hugh Peter McGrath

August 19, 1944July 15, 2020
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Peter McGrath, a longtime editor at Newsweek Magazine (formerly owned by the Washington Post Company), and a pioneer of new media, died on July 15, 2020 in his home in Annapolis, at the age of 76.

Before developing the first online versions of Newsweek, McGrath served as a foreign editor and managing editor of Newsweek International.

McGrath was born in Macclesfield, England, on August 19, 1944, of an English father and an American mother. He grew up in Annapolis, MD, where his father was a tutor at St. John’s College.

McGrath graduated with honors from Amherst College in 1966 and received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1974.

He was the founding editor of Washington Journalism Review and a senior editor at The Washingtonian.

After retiring from Newsweek he taught journalism at George Washington University and Rutgers University.

He is survived by his sons, Alexander and Evan, both of New York City, Alexander’s children, Jackson and Charlie, and his wife, Karen Helm, of Annapolis. He was married to Susan Seliger for 33 years. Their marriage ended in 2006 and they remained on good terms.

Due to the current pandemic, attendance at the Celebration is very limited so we would ask that you stay home and stay safe. We will be hosting a Zoom call of the event, if you would like to be a part of that call and join us for the Celebration you are most welcome to email Evan S. McGrath, Peter’s son, at evansmcgrath@gmail.com Thank you.

Services

  • Celebration of Life

    Saturday, July 25, 2020

Memories

Hugh Peter McGrath

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Barbara McGrath

July 26, 2020

Peter was my senior by 11 years. As a child, the span was too great for us to be buddies. Instead, I admired him as younger siblings do. I guess I was also a bit in awe, for in fourth grade we were assigned an art project to make a portrait of someone in our family. Peter was my immediate choice of subject. Somewhere, in some family box of papers, there must still be a page of construction paper with carefully assembled bits of colored paper—a mosaic portrait of Peter. I think he was rather touched by my effort.

I remember him babysitting me when our parents went out—and how he gave me delightful chills by playing guitar and singing such creepy songs as Widecombe Fair and Bringing Mary Home. He told me later he knew I had a “taste for the Gothic.”

That was characteristic of Peter: he paid attention to people in a way most do not. He noticed their particular likes and dislikes. He filed them away and pondered them—because he was curious about people but also he just plain cared about who they were.

Those of us here who knew Peter know that he had a wonderful brain and an incredible memory for detail. He did not always reveal things he knew or thought about – until a comment or prompt from one of us set him off and he would launch into a fascinating story or anecdote.

I will miss him, and I will miss all the stories I never got to hear.

Love you, Peter.

Brian McGrath

July 25, 2020


I am Peter’s little brother, with all that that entails. As a young boy, I looked up to him, I learned from him, and I wanted to be him. I was enchanted by his many talents aand varied interests. How he loved to play and appreciate music. His impressive intellect, which I recognized even as a young boy, was inspiring. His love of sports, and particularly baseball, were shared.

Then there were the comings and goings of his friends at 28 Wilson Rd., in particular those he played his beloved mandolin with.

Later in life, it was his love of family which I will remember most, the great Christmas gatherings and watching our children grow into beautiful, loving adults.

For me, celebrating a life means sharing stories. Stories that provide insight into that life, or just make you smile. I leave you with one that I hope accomplishes both.

When I was nine, I joined the Elk’s Lodge baseball team in the Farm League, the one before Little League. When the coach asked for a pitcher to step forward, all the other boys stepped back, I think. Turns out I wasn’t all that bad. I think we went 11 for 12 that year. Peter attended one of the games and he remembered, with great glee, what one of my coaches would shout from the sidelines. With the count something and 2, Coach Sansing would yell at the mound; “Fire the dark pitch, Brian”. Only, in his southern Maryland accent it came out more like “Fahr the dork pitch, Brahn”. So, at all family gatherings after that, at some point Peter would look at me with great affection and say “Fahr the dork pitch, Brahn”.

With this one, simple phrase, he always acknowledged this shared moment of the good times growing up, and his love of family. I never got tired of hearing him say that.

Vaya con Dios, my brother.
I love you.








Carol Emory

July 24, 2020

Thoughts and prayers to Karen and the McGrath family.

Carol Denson Emory
Classmate AHS 1962

david skaggs

July 24, 2020

Many remembrances other have left note what a good 'boss' and mentor Peter was. Peter and I both had the pleasure of working on then Freshman Congressman Tim Wirth's staff in the mid-70s. For a time then I was nominally Peter's boss, though it was really a relationship of equals. While I might have been 'above' him on some small organizational chart, Peter was certainly the superior when it came to matters of intellect, widely-read literacy, and language. It was a treat working together.
When I wrote Tim about Peter's death, he wrote that he wished Peter had stayed on staff longer. I just wish he had stayed on earth longer.
We have remained friends ever since those days, with my enjoying the privilege over the last several years of the occasional lunch or dinner with him when I got to DC from Colorado. I shall miss his unfailing wit, his piercing comments about the failings he saw in the world, especially current politics in the US, and -- thank goodness -- his frequent and often novel suggestions for how to make things better.
May he be at peace and able to apprehend the love we send his way.

Barbara McGrath

July 21, 2020

Peter. My brother. Eleven years older and almost mythical in terms of brainpower and accomplishments. My early memories are those of the little sister-girl. Peter coming in the door with snow-covered shoulders when he hitchhiked home from Amherst on Christmas Eve, his first year. My mother’s heart, vibrating with love to see him—for her no one else existed in that moment. Other times, I loved peeking in to see him play mandolin and sing with his friends in our living room. Later, I loved how he loved his sons. I loved how he loved my sons. I loved how he loved his wives and his friends. I loved how he loved our cousins. And never did he have a critical word for man or woman or child who belonged to his tribe. They were all perfect to him. I will miss him forever.

Barbara McGrath

July 21, 2020

Peter. My brother. Eleven years older and almost mythical in terms of brainpower and accomplishments. My early memories are those of the little sister-girl. Peter coming in the door with snow-covered shoulders when he hitchhiked home from Amherst on Christmas Eve, his first year. My mother’s heart, vibrating with love to see him—for her no one else existed in that moment. Other times, I loved peeking in to see him play mandolin and sing with his friends in our living room. Later, I loved how he loved his sons. I loved how he loved my sons. I loved how he loved his wives and his friends. I loved how he loved our cousins. And never did he have a critical word for man or woman or child who belonged to his tribe. They were all perfect to him. I will miss him forever.

Mary Tolbert Matheny

July 21, 2020

Peter and I first knew each other as children. My father, like Peter’s, was a tutor at St. John’s College; and Peter and I often saw each other at College events that we attended with our parents. We became friends on our own when we were young teenagers and remained friends until his death.
As everyone has noted here, Peter was a good and exceptionally gifted man, with a keen sense of humor. (I nodded and smiled when I read Kenneth Woodward’s reference here to Peter’s “sly wit”.) My happiest memories of Peter – and some of the happiest times for Peter himself, I think – are of Peter, David Werle, and Roger Nasteff singing and playing [mandolin, guitar, banjo] together in the early ‘60s, with Elinor Ochs and me as their fortunate audience. We gathered for these ‘jams” often – usually at the Werles’ house, sometimes at crab feasts. It’s hard to describe the lifelong bonds of deep friendship that these times together reflected, nurtured, and reinforced.
I am disappointed that I will be unable to “attend”, via Zoom, the Celebration of Life on Saturday. It will be my birthday, and my children have planned a whole day and evening of activities for and with me. I hope that it will be possible for the Zoomed Celebration to be recorded – and accessible to me afterwards.
Meanwhile, I send my sincere condolences to Karen, Alex, Evan, and Peter’s grandchildren. I hold each of you — and Peter -- in my heart.

George Samaras

July 19, 2020

Peter was a classmate in our Annapolis High School Class of '62. A good friend in high school who we all knew would have a successful career and accomplish great things in life. We were proven right.
He was a unique and impressive individual in so many ways, the kind of person that you know does not come into your life often. Many years ago, while Peter was pursuing his literary career, he wrote an article in the Washingtonian Magazine about Annapolis and his experiences growing up there. My family has been forever grateful to Peter as he took the time to include a memory passage about our by then deceased father, Nick Samaras, in his well written and warm hearted article.
Our deepest sympathies and prayers to Karen, also our AHS '62 classmate, and to Peter's sons and grandchildren. May Peter's memory be everlasting and may God's graces be upon him and his entire family.
George Samaras
Fair Oaks Ranch, TX

Kenneth Woodward

July 19, 2020

Peter was my Senior Editor at Newsweek where I was for 38 years the Religion Editor. He was one of the few editors on the staff who understood religion in both its public and private manifestations and we had enormous fun reflecting together on both the arcane (to others) and journalistic aspects of religious faith, culture and politics. I knew he was well read but did not know he had a phd from the University of Chicago Divinity School and he would have gotten a kick out of knowing that I am now involved with the university myself. Peter possessed a sly wit and relished reflecting on what he might call "the incredulity of it all." I will miss missing his funeral but will hold him in my prayers with--alas--so many other former Newsweek colleagues.

Elizabeth O'Connor

July 19, 2020

Peter was my first boss. He was so approachable and always wanted our perspective on things no matter how young or junior we were. He always pushed us to deliver quality content. I loved magazines and graphic design but I was definitely not up on politics or international news. Peter played a huge part in my education in those early years at Newsweek. He always had time to explain the history behind a conflict so I’d better understand what was happening now.

When I replay Peter reels in my head, he’s always smiling with that slightly giddy intensity that pulled you in as he told incredible tales from his ‘International days.’ He also appreciated the skills we brought to the table and relished in learning new things daily. Peter was a trailblazer.

I am forever grateful for the opportunities Peter afforded me. My sincere condolences to his friends and family. He was one of a kind.

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