Brian Anderson, longtime editor of Mpls.St.Paul magazine, died Tuesday afternoon at his Minneapolis condo after an eight-month battle with mixed-phenotype acute leukemia, a rare form of the disease, said Gary Johnson, president of MSP Communications, which publishes the magazine.
Anderson was 65.
He came to the magazine in 1977 when it was called MPLS. His 33 years there made him one of the nation's longest-serving city-magazine editors and dean of Twin Cities magazine editors. The City and Regional Magazine Association (CRMA) recently gave Anderson its 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award. Previous winners have included Clay Felker, founder of New York Magazine, and Michael Levy, founder of Texas Monthly.
"Brian was the guy to be the editor of that city's magazine," said Daniel Brogan, president of the CRMA and publisher/editor of 5280 magazine in Denver. "He had the perfect sensibility for that market -- smart, funny, down-to-earth, not pretentious."
Anderson kept the thriving magazine relevant for more than three decades by providing content that readers wanted even before they knew they wanted it, said Burt Cohen, the magazine's longtime publisher.
"He was able to help people lead a better life in this community," Cohen said. "That was the whole point of the magazine. He understood that and succeeded at that."
"He was a champion of the city, without a doubt," said Deborah Hopp, the magazine's current publisher.
A Minneapolis native, Anderson graduated from Robbinsdale High School and graduated from the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism in 1966. He was a reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune for several years, then went to work as press secretary, speechwriter and researcher for Sen. Walter Mondale, D-Minn.
"He was bright and full of energy," said Mondale. "He was a steady and positive guy who made a difference."
Anderson returned to Minnesota and took over the magazine, developed its concept and vision and turned it into "a magazine people wanted to read," Cohen said.
Anderson's tenure with the magazine was defined by his decency and lack of stridency, Johnson said. "He was one of the steadiest presences I've ever been around," Johnson said. "He was an absolute beam of light."
Those who knew him and worked with him said Anderson was a mentor for many young writers and editors.
He began leukemia treatment after his diagnosis last July and stayed on the job, looking at magazine covers up until recently, Johnson said.
"He had a sense of grace about his illness," said his son, David. "Much to my occasional frustration, he never got real angry about it."
Named as an Alumni of Distinction from the College of Liberal Arts by his alma mater, the civic-minded Anderson was proud of his Swedish heritage and involved with the American Swedish Institute. He was an avid cross-country skier who participated in many grueling Birkebeiner races in northern Wisconsin, as well as Minneapolis' City of Lakes Loppet. Gov. Tim Pawlenty proclaimed Feb. 13 as Brian Anderson Day in Minnesota, and Anderson was given his own day in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well.
He is survived by his parents, Bertil and Phyllis Anderson of Plymouth, siblings Brad Anderson of Duluth and Barbara Stearns of Webster, Iowa, his wife, Kari Shannon-Anderson, and her daughters, Kendra and Jesse. He also is survived by two children from a previous marriage to Theresa Nelson of Edina: David of Los Angeles and Liz of Chicago.
Staff writer Graydon Royce contributed to this report.