Tribute to Ron Offen

Free Lunch # 42

We received news of Ron Offen passing this week. Ron was the editor of Free Lunch, published by Free Lunch Arts Alliance. The last Free Lunch came to me because a couple of Joan Siegel’s recent poems appeared in it. Joan spoke very kindly of Ron Offen.

Perhaps only poets and readers ever know about such good reviews or mags like Free Lunch or The Café Review. Ron was nice enough to put a small ad for Joan’s book in #42, and it struck me that though he was in Illinois, he told me he knew and liked The Cafe Review (out of Portland, ME) and the editor Steve Luttrell, an old friend of mine. Reviews like these number quite a few across the country. They provide  much-needed purpose by bringing known and unknown writers to us for us to appreciate and join in the special song of life which is poetry. This notice, below, was sent out by Beverly Offen who also worked on Free Lunch. My thoughts go out to Beverly.

I completely enjoyed Free Lunch #42 and was sorry to hear that it would be going out of print last year when we were told Ron had health issues that prevent him from continuing the magazine. Surely I am not alone when I say thank you Ron Offen.

Free Lunch #42 featured the work of Béatrice Englert on the cover. To see more of her work go to

“Sorry news. Ron was among the most cordial and generous of editors I’ve ever encountered. A modest little journal was Free Lunch . . . giving voice to a wide range of poets.”        —Joan Siegel

Email from Beverly Offen. If you wish to respond, please do so at

Ronald (Ron) Charles Offen, 79, of Glenview, Illinois, died on August 9th in Glenview. The cause of death was cancer.

Ron was born October 2, 1930 in Chicago to Charles Offen and Ellen Shirreffs Offen. He graduated from Austin High School, received an A.A. from Wright College and an M.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. In the 1970s and 1980s he lived in Southern California and was delighted to return to the Chicago area in 2001.

He was divorced from his first wife, Sharon Nealy; his second wife, Rosine Brueckner Franke, died in 2001. He is survived by his third wife, Beverly Kahling Offen, his sister, Pam (Charles) Veley, his children, Eric (Diane) Offen and Deirdre (Don) Junta, Michele Offen and Darren (Beatriz) Offen, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Ron held many jobs, from taxi driver to insurance investigator to middle school library assistant. But the force that gave his life meaning was always the written word; he was an author, a poet, playwright, editor, and theater producer.

In 1989, after a bout with cancer, he thought about how important poetry had been to him and how much it had given him. To give something back to poetry and poets, he started the magazine Free Lunch, with the commitment to give all serious poets in the U.S. a free subscription and also to comment on all work submitted to him. Free Lunch has published many of the best-known contemporary American poets. In 2009, due to his illness, publication of the magazine ceased.

Ron loved his wife, his children, his many friends, poetry, trees, the color orange, playing the trumpet and the piano, cookies, contemporary art and architecture, WFMT, caring for his collection of house plants, books, turtles, jazz, Bach and Chopin, swimming, the Midwest, and evenings at home.

There will be no funeral services. A memorial celebration will be scheduled.

Ron’s papers are archived in Special Collections at the University of Chicago. Memorial donations may be made to the University of Chicago with an indication that they are intended for support of Special Collections. Send to Judy Lindsey, Director of Development, University of Chicago Library, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637.


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