The voice clearly expected the answer to be no, but it asked the question anyway: "Bob, do you still publish the names of people who quit smoking?" I said I did, and always would.
There ensued a deep sigh, and these words: "Without you, Bob, I think half the people who are thinking of quitting wouldn't do it."
Well, thanks for the credit, Madame Sigh. But I'd say it's a matter of inner strength, not publicity.
Quitters know that they can go back to smoking at any time. To remain a quitter takes more fortitude than any newspaper guy can administer with a few dabs of ink.
But in case the publicity really helps, here comes heaps of it. Cheers, please, for the latest members of Levey's Super Stoppers Club.
Katie Alexander of West Springfield leads the parade. She was "turned in" by her husband Bob. "She smoked on and off, mostly on, for eight years," Bob reports. Why did she switch to off? "She just decided it wasn't good for her health," Bob replied. More complicated a reason you'll never need.
Joyce Ashby of Hamilton, Va., got a lot of mileage out of a 22-cent stamp. She mailed in word of three quitters: Her sister Margie Grimsley, her son-in-law Tim Fleming and her daughter Brenda Fleming.
The law firm of Ivins, Phillips & Barker sent a beautifully typed, perfectly centered, perfectly spaced legal announcement. For a second, I thought it was a subpoena. But no: The firm merely wanted to announce "the first anniversary of Ruby V. Styron's last cigarette."
Judy Joy of Stevensville, Md., went smokeless last October. Wayne Leer of St. Mary's City did the same two months sooner. Rebecca A. Simmons of Silver Spring nominates herself, as well as two fellow inhabitants of her office, Mary Beth Bergan and Leslie Radloff. And Arnold J. Levin of Bethesda quit with a question: "How did I stand cigarette odor all those years?"
Singing is a lot more difficult if you smoke, and 14 members of the Potomac Harmony Chorus have chosen to croon rather than choke. The saved throats belong to Dawn Bedrick, Betty Dalecky, Carol Conway, Kay Garrett, Oma Grigsby, Fred Grigsby, Marguerite Hall, Beth Isham, Kathy Lippiello, Sue Mosher, Lois Reingruber, Karen Serum, Esther Wade and Peg Willis.
"Susan Brackna, The Girl Friend," would like the world to know that Harold Mintz of Alexandria took the cure. Jean McTeague of Falls Church nominates hubby Steve. Jack Lavery of Vienna says "atta girl" to Sue, his spouse. And Jeanne M. Dismas of Sterling would like to atta-boy her brother Paul Lewandowski, who is nearing a year and a half without a puff.
Ken Stringfellow of Vienna is a basketball referee -- "and I wouldn't be out there chasing high school kids up and down the court if I hadn't quit." A congratulatory toot of the whistle to you, Ken.
Charlotte Hubbard of Manassas says her husband Doug "dun good," and it's impossible to disagree. Doug set aside the evil weed after 26 years of puffing on it.
Maria Kutcher of Potomac has two friends to submit for membership in our club: Debbie and David Downer, who were anything but downers when they quit smoking last March 1.
There's been a mass outbreak of quitting fever in the offices of the Michie Co. in Charlottesville. The weedless Michie wonders are Jim Shultz, Odell Gardner, Sue Gallihugh, Bill Brandl, Stella West, Dot Franklin, Lorna Williams and Anne Willson (with a special tip of the empty cigarette holder to Salli T. Gamez, who reported the good news).
Nat Cohen of Woodley Park quit more than a year ago -- which inspired her friend Joy Duva to do the same. John Brinkheide has made Computer Sciences Corp. in Falls Church a less cloudy place since he kicked the habit, reports Susan Richmond. And Charles Cardine of Chantilly stands as shining proof that it's never too late. He stopped smoking after doing it relentlessly for 45 years.
Lydia V. Lewis of College Park says "Let's honor Sam!" -- and I say why not? Sam is Sam Waterworth, her son-in-law. As soon as Lydia's daughter/Sam's wife announced that she was pregnant, Sam quit, just like that.
Another family affair: Doris Justus publicly praises her just-quit daughter, Shirlee Larson. Jack Kleinstuber of Fenwick Island, Del., praises his friend Bill Marshall of Bethany Beach, who just up and decided one day that he had had enough.
Howard L. Cedarblade is a recent quitter (thanks to his daughter Karen for the news). And nine employes of the American Public Health Association recently decided to live up to the third word of their organization's name. The APHA quitters are Adrienne Ash (has there ever been a better surname for a quitter?), Doyne M. Bailey, Marva L. Barnette, Rusty Boyce, Monica L. Dixon, Darleen D. Dobbs, Bob Johnson, Jean R. Mathis and Ruth Oliver.
Got a nominee for the Super Stoppers Club? Please mail the details to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.