Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Obituary for a Hoosier editor

Here's a great look at what his obituary should have said.


Alana Baranick said...

Way cool, Amy.

It's sad when a newspaper runs a generic tribute obit for one of its own. I love to read about the eccentric characters who make the world of journalism fun, exciting, bizarre and/or insert-appropriate-adjective-here.

I wasn't on duty in December 2001 when word came about the death of Ed Kissell, "a legendary Plain Dealer police reporter whose craving for secrecy was so intense that even some of his bosses did not know him."

Richard M. Peery, my partner-in-grim at Cleveland's daily newspaper, was able to write that identifying marker in Kissell's obit because he had known him for decades.

Peery wrote: "For most of his career, Kissell worked evenings out of a media office at Cleveland police headquarters. About the only times he appeared in the newspaper's newsroom were on paydays, when he would quickly grab his check and be out of the office before anyone realized he was there.

"One day during former City Editor Dan Sabol's tenure, Sabol asked another editor who the stranger in the office was. Told it was one of his reporters, the surprised city editor responded, 'I wondered if there really was an Ed Kissell.'"

Peery went on to explain that Kissell's first Plain Dealer project was an investigation into corruption in a local Longshoremen's Union. The resulting conviction of a union-official/mobster for embezzling led to Kissell's receiving death threats. After that, he didn't want his byline printed in the paper.

Kissell guarded his privacy so thoroughly that, when he encountered a retired policeman in an elevator in the high-rise apartment building where he lived, he rode all the way to the top and back down again, so the former cop wouldn't discover which apartment he called home.

"For at least the last 20 years, Kissell did not own a phone," Peery wrote. "He told colleagues that if he needed to talk to someone, he would call them on a pay phone."

A friend told Peery that Kissell "was a private person in the extreme. If he had two friends, he would make sure they didn't know each other."

As if the secrecy thing wasn't enough, Peery also went into detail about Kissell's love of ice skating and his tryout for the old Cleveland Barons professional hockey team; his passion for and encyclopedic knowledge of hockey, Negro baseball leagues and old movies; and his hobbies: collecting sports jackets, hockey sticks and baseball bats. He also owned and raced horses.

I'm so glad that Peery took care of Kissell's obit. A reporter with less personal knowledge of the eccentric Kissell would have missed so much.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic story!