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Remembrance: Soper edited temperance magazine Listen for 30 years

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Remembrance: Soper edited temperance magazine Listen for 30 years

Listen magazine Editor Francis A. Soper (right) interviews radio broadcast legend Paul Harvey. Soper also landed interviews with famous entertainers, athletes and U.S. first ladies during his 30 years editing the Adventist Church's temperance magazine. [photo courtesy Ford family]

Interviewed first ladies, entertainers and athletes promoting temperate lifestyle

February 24, 2012 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Ansel Oliver/ANN

Francis A. Soper was the longtime editor of Listen magazine, the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s temperance outreach that advocated a drug-free lifestyle for youth and profiled celebrities who promoted the cause.

Soper, who died January 17 at age 93, edited the magazine for 30 years, the longest-serving editor in the magazine’s history. As editor from 1954 to 1984, he interviewed and featured celebrity entertainers and athletes – from singer Johnny Cash to Olympic figure skater Peggy Flemming. He also landed interviews with United States first ladies Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan.

The magazine, which launched in 1948 and ceased publication last year, was the church’s public voice of drug and alcohol prevention in the community and published in an era before cigarette packets carried warning labels. Listen included teaching materials and was used in high school classrooms around the U.S.

As editor, Soper later held the title of Associate Director of what was then known as the Temperance department at the Adventist Church’s world headquarters.

Colleagues described Soper as a gentle personality but firm in his editorial requirements.

“He was iconic editor. Listen was Soper and Soper was Listen,” said Stoy Proctor, former associate director of the Adventist world church’s Health Ministries department. “He was dogged in trying to make it the best magazine.”

Soper grew up in Minnesota and graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California. In 1942 he landed a job as a copy editor with the denomination’s Pacific Press Publishing Association, then located in Mountain View, California. He later became an assistant editor of several publications before becoming associate editor of Listen in 1952 and editor two years later.

“He really loved getting to know these professionals in music and sports who made a real effort to be an example to the teenage generation they were performing for,” said his daughter Lois Ford.

Soper was preceded in death by his daughter Lori in 2007 and his wife Eunice in 2009. Survivors include Lois Ford and grandsons Timothy and David Ford.

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