March 14, 2012

08CN: Soper, Temperance Advocate, Listen Editor, Dies

Soper, Temperance Advocate,
Listen Editor, Passes Away

Profiled drug-free celebrities in effort to reach youth

BY ANSEL OLIVER, Adventist News Network

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, 2012, at age 93, edited the magazine for 30 years, becoming 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 Fleming. 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 United States.

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TEMPERANCE ADVOCATE: Listen magazine editor Francis A. Soper (right) interviews radio brodcasting 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 of Ford Family.

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 an iconic editor. Listen was Soper, and Soper was Listen,” said Stoy Proctor, former associate director of the Adventist 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 its 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.

His daughter Lori, in 2007, and his wife, Eunice, in 2009, preceded Soper in death. Survivors include his daughter Lois Ford and two grandsons.