"I was a cryptographic technician in the signal corps, a code specialist and a truck driver on the Burma Road, driving 900 miles across China, Burma, India, during a monsoon," he said. "That was at a time when it was tough for me to get loan of the family car on weekends, and here was the Army entrusting me with a two-and-a-half ton GMC truck worth thousands of dollars."

After the war, Panos headed back to college, until his junior year, 1947, when he applied for and was hired full time by the AP. He worked there 20 years, including a two-and-a-half-year stint inWashington, D.C., where he covered and got to know the Kennedy brothers.

"At that time, the press office in the Justice Department building was directly across from (U.S. Attorney General) Robert Kennedy's office," Panos said, feigning a Boston Brahman accent. "In the morning Bobby would stop in for his keys, and as he was unlocking his door, he would always call across the hall, 'Good mohning, Lew, how ah yew?'"

It was in 1950 that Panos married Aphrodite "Dottie" Stavropoulos, a graduate of the (then) Institute of Art, now Maryland Institute College of Art, whom he first met in junior high school. The couple have four children and four grandchildren. "Sixty-two years, still married to the same women, and we're still speaking to each other," he quipped. "Just today she told me to take out the trash."

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But he quickly adds, "During my frequent and prolonged absences covering the Maryland General Assembly and presidential elections, Dottie was the glue that held our family together for all those years."

In 1967, Panos left AP to begin a 15-year stint as a columnist and editorial writer for The Sun. That was followed by six years as Hughes' press secretary. In 1989, he went to work as chief political reporter for the Patuxent newspapers, from which he retired in 2007. During his newspaper years he covered an astonishing 40 sessions of the Maryland Legislature.

And there was more. In 1990, he co-authored (with Stanley A. Blumberg) "Edward Teller: Giant of the Golden Age of Physics," a biography of the so-called "Father of the H-Bomb." He was also recruited by the late R Adams Cowley, a pioneering in shock-trauma treatment, to serve two years (1987-1989) as director of media relations for the University of Maryland R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

For all those of who have known and worked with Panos, it's impossible to overlook another facet of his temperament that has made him so effective at what he does: his kindness.

"Lou was always a gentleman... a gentle man, as well as a gentleman," said former Towson Times reporter Loni Ingraham, who worked with Panos for many years. "He was always polite, in the nicest of ways."

At 86, Panos is still keeping busy.

"People ask me what I'm doing now and I tell them I'm writing three books, one is fiction, one is nonfiction and one is my memoir," he said. "But sometimes I can't remember which is which.

"A sage man once said that one of the most difficult jobs of a writer is to convince his wife that when he's sitting at his desk staring at the wall that he's working."

When asked for some parting words of wisdom, Panos offers advice he doubtless received many times early on in his career and dispensed many times in his later years as an editor.

"Just remember: Keep it short — that's the old AP model," he said with mock sternness. "Keep it short ... and write it so people understand it!"