Penny Campbell

2 minute read

A common phrase heard around TIME’s editorial offices in London, especially late on Saturday nights when we were frantically trying to close the magazine, was: “Ask Penny.” Penny Campbell, who died unexpectedly last week, was our very own walking encyclopedia. Whatever information you needed — whether it was pointers on an arcane aspect of TIME style, the current status of some attempted coup or the latest scrap of office gossip — Penny knew. And she would happily tell you, too, over a steaming cup of organic Earl Grey tea and a chocolate biscuit.

In Hong Kong, where Penny was an associate editor with TIME ‘s Asian edition before taking on the same role for the European edition in London, she was known as “Moneypenny,” after the indefatigable assistant in the James Bond series. The nickname reflected not only Penny’s remarkable efficiency and industriousness, but also the bemused calm with which she was able to soothe even our most voluble foreign correspondents. Indeed, for reporters working from the world’s war zones and other unsavory hot spots, the sound of civilization was Penny’s marvelous, sprightly voice. But another thing that Penny knew was when work could wait. She once instructed a distraught correspondent, who had both a deadline and a screaming infant to contend with, to give the child a bubble bath and come back to the story later. Penny showed us all how to balance professionalism with parenthood: her young son Joseph would dart around the office for a few hours every Saturday, invariably dressed as Spiderman.

For us, Penny had superhero powers, too. She was warm, vivacious, intelligent, indispensible. She looked at life like she sometimes took her tea: with a squeeze of British lemon that gave us all a jolt. As a journalist, as a colleague, as a friend, Penny was all we ever could have asked for.

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