Gregory Henry, a veteran publicist who had most recently worked at Melville House, died unexpectedly on September 17. He was 48.

Henry joined Melville House earlier this year as a senior publicist. An industry veteran, he came to the publisher after stints with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Reagan Arts, HarperCollins, Rare Bird and Apollo Publishers and, briefly, Hachette Book Group's conservative imprint, Center Street Books.

“It all led to Gregory having an amazing skill set—very intuitive, inventive, and kind of devilish,” Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson said in a statement on Henry's passing. “For example, he liked to send pitches for our lefty writers to arch-conservative media. I think he figured, ‘What’s the point of preaching to the converted?’ It was nervy, as well as a profound understanding of the purpose of publishing books.”

Johnson added: “We’re still in a state of shock. We’d been trying to get Gregory to come work for us for years, and he finally joined us six months ago. I think the astonishing, industry-wide outpouring of grief and affection for him that we're seeing on social media gives you some sense of how talented a guy he was, how sweet a human being, and why we were lucky for our time with him.”

Heather N. Drucker, senior director of publicity for Harper Perennial & Harper Paperbacks, called Henry “the kind of friend I always talked with on the phone for hours.” What stuck out the most for her was “his irreverent, incredibly smart humor. And each time we talked, we’d end the call the same way. He’d say, “I love you,” and I’d say it back. That little ending meant so much to me, and it makes me smile even now as I try to shake off this overwhelming sadness. It makes me want to follow in his footsteps and end all calls the very same way—with a declaration of love, because you never know when it will be too late to say it again.”

Another associate at Harper, Amy Baker, called Henry "one of a kind. He had a special ability to connect with people, a wicked sense of humor, a unique perspective on life, and a kind heart."

Harcourt’s former director of publicity, Michelle Blankenship of Blankenship Public Relations, said: “He never ceased to amaze me, finding media opportunities for books no matter how impossible at times. Provocateur, colleague, artist, rascal, champion of authors, publicist extraordinaire — he was a character and he made sure no one could ever forget him. Not only is his passing a great loss to me and the many others who loved him, it is a loss for books.”

This article has been updated for clarity.