Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Terry, it was great knowing you

THE PASSING 0f Terry Oblander, a colleague and friend, has opened another hole in the ranks of enthusiastic newspapermen who considered it a privilege to show up at the office every day. His disheveled presence at his desk, whether he was trying to fill in a few more blanks for a feature story or grinding out hard news, was usually a sight for the journalistically correct reporters and editors in his midst. One moment he would be bellowing, the next he would erupt in violent laughter. His gestures were broad; his personality, for better or worse, never suppressed. The world, for "The Dutchman" was never a neat place where the spoons and forks were properly placed at the sides of the plate.

He wasn't crazy, folks, Just a very good - and honorable - reporter who was happily dedicated in his work. It was serious fun, richly expressed.

He was doubtless the last demonstrative vestige of the shrinking hometown business in which newsrooms have been quieted by vanishing staffs, energized voices and clicking typewriters. Today a lot of people communicate with lowered voices, hopeful, among other things, of keeping their jobs before retirement in a few years, months or weeks.

For many years, Terry, stricken by heart failure at 64, gallantly hung on to the end despite the loss of his wife and the need for care for his kids as an everyday workingman. But his bad luck seemed to follow him in his post-Beacon Journal days at the Plain Dealer. He worked in the PD's once-flashy bureau in Montrose, joined the subsequent move to the paper's windowless office in a basement on the Medina Square that could have passed for submarine quarters and continued his odyssey to various other points that wound up in Cleveland - all with a family home in Medina. He was one of the victims of the paper's confusion over what it wanted to be if it ever sank some roots south of Cuyahoga County.

I had worked part-time(!) for the PD and witnessed the upheaval before deciding there could be a decent life as a writer free of newspapers. During the later years, Terry called from time to time, beginning with "How's it going?" (He was the sort of person who really wanted to know, instead of the usual conversation gambit.)

I began to sense that the vitality in his voice was absent. Cynicism had crept in to his gung-ho love of a reporter's life. I wish I could have told him that things were bound to improve, but that would have been a lie to one of most conscientiously honest human beings that I had ever met in the business - or anywhere else, for that matter.

So I listened. We talked. After the newspaper talk, he would tell me about his kids' love of sports, and the memorabilia of the passion. Finally, he would say, "Well, I gotta go. Let's have lunch sometime". Just like that.

I' m sorry I took so long to share another beer and shelled peanuts with him. Too soon, his heart, as well as his business, let him down.


JLM said...

Heard of his passing on the radio. Sorry for the loss of your friend.

Grumpy Abe said...

JLM, thanks. Terry was a kindred spirit.