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October 17th, 2015

Dept. of Birthdays

Hi there, [personal profile] brithistorian 

I hope your birthday was a good one, and I'm so glad to see you around these parts!

This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/382345.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.

Dept. of Goodbye

The Simple Declarative Sentence is the Bedrock of Western Civilization

That's what the man who hired me at Pioneer Press back in 1983 used to say. His name was Bob Rockafield, and we all called him Rocky. He changed my life, both by hiring me after a 15-20 minute interview, no drug tests, no background checks, and by making me a better reporter. 

Rocky was very tall, 6'4", he had a mellifluous voice, he had a horribly cheesy sense of humor, and he knew how to deal with people, because I think he really liked them.

He helped me learn how to check my sources, and began the incredibly difficult task of paring down my verbosity. (That he never succeeded in that last wasn't for want of trying.) When he edited my stories, he told me why he made changes. He sat by my side when I did an interview with Lyndon LaRouche, because I think he knew I was nervous. When he gave me advice, it always made sense, and I always retained, or at least tried to retain, the lessons he taught me. He was a good newspaperman, and that is the highest professional compliment I can give him. 

Personally, I can think of no better compliment than to say he was a mensch. He was a Korean War vet, and was the first person to tell me that Korean War vets shouldn't be forgotten. He was a Detroit Tigers fan, something he shared with BB. He definitely wasn't averse to fun; he readily shut down our small office every October, two or three years running, to let us run our "Octathlon." Today, any upper management type shutting up the office so that employees could engage in beer or burger-eating contests, stupid human tricks, etc., would be ushered out the door, post-haste. 

He was eventually fired, or forced into resigning, in the late 1980s or early 1990s, during one of the intermittent Nights of the Long Knives that used to plague Pioneer. We didn't stay in touch, although I spoke to him telephonically once or twice. 

This Tuesday, I got an email from Rocky's son. He had died the previous day. I learned from his son that Parkinson's and advancing dementia had left him without the sharp wit and keen mind he once had. 

I went to the wake, and learned from both his wife and son that Rocky had kept memorabilia from much of his past journalistic life, including a stint on the Tribune's sports desk before he was hired by Pioneer, and, of course, much memorabilia from his Pioneer days. They also told me he spoke of me often. I think he probably thought of many others of us often as well, but it's good to know he retained his affection for me.

I had to leave the wake after perhaps 10 minutes there; looking at the body was a shock, because he had wasted away. And of course he wasn't there.

I really rather loved that man, and I think the world, with a Rocky sized hole in it, is a poorer place today.  
This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/382525.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.