Jeremy Gaige, 83, chess expert, newspaperman

Jeremy Gaige
Jeremy Gaige (Peter Mucha)
Posted: March 10, 2011

Jeremy Gaige, 83, a newspaperman and chess archivist, died of emphysema Saturday, Feb. 19, at his home in the Spring Garden section of the city.

In the early 1960s, while working as an editor at the Evening Bulletin, Mr. Gaige began compiling detailed records of chess events, particularly tournaments, and collecting data about players and writers.

He set up a printing press in his basement and hand-set type to produce six volumes of tournament cross tables played between 1851 and 1980. He also self-published other books and booklets.

In 1987, McFarland & Co. published Mr. Gaige's Chess Personalia: A Biobibliography, which provided vital statistics on about 14,000 chess personalities from all countries and periods.

"The sources quoted by Gaige are astonishingly far-ranging," wrote reviewer Edward Winter. "Wherever possible, he has made contact with the personalia themselves. Much information has also been obtained from funeral homes, cemeteries, universities, alumni records, professional directories, etc."

Winter described Mr. Gaige as "a brilliant sifter of evidence, and unlike so many chess writers, when he doesn't know, he says he doesn't know. The biobibliography is one of the most useful chess books ever published, yet Jeremy Gaige would be the last person to claim that it is 'definitive.' His work goes on, an incomparable service to the game he loves."

Mr. Gaige was inducted into the Chess Hall of Fame in 1970. Chess Personalia was republished as a paperback in 2005.

A native of Peekskill, N.Y., Mr. Gaige graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.

During World War II, he served in the Army Medical Corps. After his discharge, he earned a bachelor's degree from Columbia University.

He began his journalism career as a copyboy at the New York Times and contributed obituaries to the New York Herald Tribune. He was later a radio and television editor at the Syracuse Herald-Journal, editorial editor at the Toledo Blade, and a reporter at the Wall Street Journal.

While at the Journal, he met his future wife, Harriet Oken, who was an assistant manager at a leather-goods company. They were married at City Hall in New York in February 1959. "I was on my lunch hour and had to get back to work. Jeremy had the afternoon off," she said.

Two weeks later, Mr. Gaige joined the Bulletin. He was a copy editor in the business section when the paper closed in 1982.

He and his wife had lived in the home they built in Spring Garden since 1962. She is a Realtor and community activist in Spring Garden and Fairmount. On his basement press, he printed civic association newsletters, posters for neighborhood art shows, and business stationery and cards for her, she said.

In 1998, Mr. Gaige and his wife were the subject of articles in The Inquirer when AT&T switched their long-distance service four times without their permission - a practice known as slamming - using documents on which Mr. Gaige's signature was forged.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Gaige is survived by a daughter, Monica Gaige-Rosenweig, and a granddaughter.

A service will be private.


Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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