Jeanne Nunn Lasfer
Former Missouri Life editor Jeanne Nunn Lafser shares her side of the story in this exclusive interview for our fortieth anniversary.
By Madeline Schroeder
Jeanne Nunn Lafser gets a funny feeling every time she picks up Missouri Life, the recent issue of which now lies on her coffee table. It’s like a time warp, she says.
The beginning of Missouri Life remains vivid to her. Her father, Bill, started the magazine in 1973. Brainstorming sessions and production cropped up from her family’s dining room table. Quickly the operation took over the living room, and eventually claimed the entire basement, which she and her parents painted yellow and named the “yellow submarine.”
At 17, Jeanne commuted home from Northeast Missouri University to help with the magazine. She stayed up late with her parents in the “yellow submarine,” scrambling to finish subscriptions and renewals.
Publishing the magazine was hard-fought for the family and a few close friends who contributed. Bill’s seven years as editor and publisher were a constant financial struggle. “It got to be a joke, but it wasn’t funny,” Jeanne laughs, ironically. She remembers regular staff meetings aimed to concoct some brilliant idea for funding the next issue. Occasionally they published a special edition that consolidated issues. Once, they hosted a raffle for an original black and white lithograph print signed by the famous muralist, Thomas Hart Benton. Jeanne now groans at the thought, wishing they hadn’t had to sell the valuable print. “Somehow, we always ended up making each issue. It was crazy,” Jeanne says. The family switched to modest living and Jeanne received $10 a month from her parents for her freshman year of college. The experience was difficult but very special, she says. She published the magazine for three years after her father sold it.
Jeanne is delighted with how Missouri Life has grown since her father first envisioned it. She still enjoys reading each issue. With work and errands everyday, she says, “Sometimes we miss the richness of the place we live.” Jeanne believes the magazine cultivates an awareness of Missouri’s greatness and unique history. “It consolidates it all into one source."