Jan Sturdevant, 78, a longtime Newsday copy editor remembered by former colleagues for his skills, humor and passion for music, died last month following a long illness in Deerfield Beach, Florida, where he'd lived for the past four years.

Sturdevant worked for Newsday between 1968 and 1995. He started out on the night copy desk, when the newspaper was based in Garden City, and later worked days on the features desk.

Earlier, he was employed by the New York Post and by newspapers in Rochester and Syracuse, said his wife, Robin Axelrod, to whom he'd been married since 1981.

Newsday assistant news editor Henry Moritsugu, who began his career at the newspaper in 1967, recalled Sturdevant's "sing-alongs" with fellow staffers after deadline -- mostly folk music. Sturdevant "provided accompaniment on guitar or soprano sax," Moritsugu said, and was quick with a quip or a spontaneously created song.

Sturdevant played bass and piano and recorded an album bearing the title of his band, "Eclectic Lizardland." He performed rock, country and ballads, said a step-niece, Laura Kerbyson.

Born in Albany in June 1936, the son of two schoolteachers, Sturdevant graduated as valedictorian of Morristown High School in St. Lawrence County before enrolling at Syracuse University between 1954 and 1961 -- a period interrupted by service in the Army, where he played in a band, his wife said. He completed college with a bachelor's degree in American and English literature.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

During their years on Long Island, Sturdevant resided in Long Beach and, after retiring, moved to Syracuse in the 1990s before relocating to Florida.

In addition to his wife, Sturdevant is survived by two younger siblings, Gail Bouverat of Sun City Center, Florida, and Dr. Alan Sturdevant, of Bluffton, South Carolina. A private cremation was held last month. Axelrod said a memorial service is being planned for the spring.

Liane Guenther, now senior feature news editor, arrived at Newsday in 1982. From the national desk, she said, "I looked up to see two stockinged feet in the air over by a far window."

A colleague explained matter-of-factly that it was Jan Sturdevant -- doing a yoga handstand.