Friday, January 30, 2015

Rod McKuen dies

Songwriter/poet Rod McKuen, 81, died.

Among McKuen’s commercial successes in the 1960s and '70s were his reworking of Jacques Brel’s song "Le Moribond" for the English-language version of “Seasons in the Sun” and a 1969 Frank Sinatra album of McKuen songs, “A Man Alone.”

McKuen was born in Oakland in 1933 and abused by his stepfather. 
If it’s WCPN, then Sheryl Harris must be the guest

Maybe Sheryl Harris, married to wild and crazy cartoonist John Backderf, should be a permanent guest on WCPN’s “Sound of Ideas.”

Her latest appearance will happen at 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 1 with host Sue McConnell. The topic: Scams.

Barbara McIntyre used to rout out scammy advertisers for the Beacon Journal -- because not only do scammers take victims for money, they also tend not to pay their ad bills.

Former BJ staffers Derf and Sheryl live in Cleveland.

In October Sheryl went onto WCPN to talk about customer service.

Body cameras on reporters?

Barbara Galloway Mudrack, who took a buyout in 2001 after 23 1/2 years as a BJ reporter and teaches English and Journalism at Alliance High and lives on a Columbiana County farm with husband Pete with two sons in college at Kent State and Auburn, rolls out an interesting concept:
Barbara Galloway Mudrack & husband Pete

“Hi, John, how are you? Still in Florida? Wish I was!

“Driving home from yoga last night, I was listening to the Akron Round Table on WKSU. Mark Cohen, the BJ publisher, had just spoken and was taking written questions from the audience.

“One question he fielded kind of came out of left field:

“The Beacon has been an outspoken proponent of local police using body cameras.  At what point are you going to require body cameras for reporters so we know whether that's actually what the person said?

“I think Cohen just laughed.

“Anyway, thought it was worth a mention.

“Take care,


Recorded accountability for police and reporters. Hmnn. All the electronic gadgets and smartphones today DO help show crime and police a lot. It seems almost impossible to do anything in public without it showing up on YouTube.

And the Boston Globe red-faced revelations show that some reporters DO make up facts and even people who don’t exist.

Barb grew up in the Garfield Heights home that her parents moved into after it was built in 1948 before becoming a reporter and farmer's wife.

Barb's email address:
Hugh Downing & snowy egrets (upper left in photo & below)
Easy to get a birdie on this golf course

Retired BJ printer Hugh Downing and newsroom retiree John Olesky played the El Diablo golf course in The Villages, Florida and encountered dozens of snowy egrets between the tee box and the green.

No birdies were harmed or scored in this scenario.

Hugh and wife Sharon have lived in The Villages, which is Disneyland for adults with its 2,200 clubs and 47 golf courses and 50,000 golf carts, about a dozen years.

John played the day before with a couple from Clinton in Summit County, Ohio. The husband installed the windows in the Tallmadge condo on Hilltop Terrace that John and Paula Tucker own in 1999, five years before John and Paula bought a condo off Thomas Road.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pete (2nd from left) with wife Sandy, son Bill; John Olesky, Paula Tucker 
 Pete Geiger passes away

Pete Geiger, the Beacon Journal reporter with the best knowledge of the inner workings of Akron area televangelists, passed away in his sleep Thursday, Jan. 29 after an evening with friends on the Internet.

Pete and wife Sandy lived in Penney Farms, Florida, a Christian retirement community 
Sandy & Pete on wedding day
created by shopping magnate J.C. Penney 38 miles west of St. Augustine.

They spent 13 years teaching English in Zuunmod, Mongolia, a provincial capital city of 20,000, where Sandy was director of the college and Pete edited and published a newsletter for American ex-patriate English teachers in Mongolia. They sponsored a kindergarten class for orphans and disadvantaged children.

Most Mongolians are Buddhist with a few Moslems. The country was under Soviet rule until 1989.

Mongolia is bordered by Russia and China. The Mongol Empire was founded by Genghis Khan in 1206.

Pete and Sandy moved to St. Augustine in 2007. They had round trip tickets to return to Mongolia, but Sandy's quintuple bypass open-heart surgery scrubbed the return plans. Pete used both their return tickets as a round trip to Mongolia to straighten out details for them.

Pete was part of the BJ reporting team that won a 1987 Pulitzer Prize for the general news reporting of Sir James Goldsmith’s greenmail attack on Goodyear, which had 13,000 employees. Goldsmith walked away with millions of dollars but Goodyear and Akron were never the same.

Pete's BJ career included working on an investigative team, the business desk, editorial writer, medical writer, automotive writer, religion writer, computer columnist and State Desk reporter.
He was the BJ expert on Akron Baptist Temple's Dr. Dallas Billington, a tire-builder  from Kentucky who began with a Sunday School in Reimer Elementary School on Manchester Road, and his son, Charles Billington, and Rex Humbard’s Cathedral of Tomorrow empire.

Pete’s final story for Clay Today – 31,200 circulation with 40 to 70 pages -- was published Thursday after his passing, about Green Cove Springs City Council’s vote to join 20 Florida cities seeking the breakup of the Florida Municipal Power Agency.

Pete, Sandy and their son, Bill, who works with 911 dispatch in the Detroit area, had lunch 10 days earlier with former BJ newsroom co-workers John Olesky and Paula Tucker in Leesburg, Florida. John and Paula are vacationing in The Villages, Florida – 14 miles from Leesburg -- from Jan. 1-March 31.

John found out about Pete’s passing from BJ Chief Librarian Norma Hill, who was contacted for information by Clay Today editor Eric Cravey, where Pete worked for years as a reporter in Orange Park, Clay County, Florida.
Among the other Geiger children, Ginger lives in Canton and Roger in Gainesville, Florida. Pete’s sister lives in Germany.

Pete & Sandy in Mongolia

In 2010 Sandy and Pete went to Ireland for their 49th wedding anniversary, where Pete’s maternal grandmother, Florence McCullough, emigrated from Armagh to Philadelphia at age 12 with her parents in 1898.

BJ Advertising Makeup retiree Mike Willliams wrote: “What a life experience he had. RIP, Pete.”

Former BJ reporter William Sloat remembered Pete as “quiet but very witty.”

Pete, Sandy, Paula and John had an Orlando reunion three years ago during another Florida trip by Paula and John.
In 2011 Pete for the third time had some veins in his legs collapsed so that the remaining veins could provide better circulation.

Sandy said that she and Pete discussed who they would want to meet in Heaven. Pete opted for Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, but because Jefferson was deist.

Pete added a caveat: “If he’s there.”

Broadus Raines Funeral Home in Green Cove Springs, Florida is handling the arrangements. Pete will be cremated. A memorial service will be scheduled when relatives can be there.

In lieu of flowers, Sandy asked that donations be made to the Residents Aid Fund of Penney Farms Retirement Community, 3495 Hoffan Street, Penney Farms, FL 32079. It helps defray costs since residents stay in the complex even after they run out of money.

The check should be made out to Residents Aid Association and mailed to 

Penney Retirement Community
P.O. Box 555
Penney Farms, FL 32079

If you want more information about the charity, phone (904) 284-8200.  

‘Thorn Birds’ author dies

Australia’s Colleen McCullough, whose "The Thorn Birds" novel sold 30 million copies, died at age 77.

Colleen McCullough
 McCullough wrote 25 novels, the 25th was "Bittersweet" in 2013. 

Her first novel "Tim" was published in 1974 and became a movie starring Mel Gibson as a young, intellectually disabled handyman who had a romance with a middle-aged woman.

Her second novel was "The Thorn Birds," published in 1977. It became a U.S. television mini-series in 1983 starring Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward and Christopher Plummer. 

The Outback melodrama about a priest's struggle between church and love won four Golden Globe awards.

McCullough was born in Wellington in New South Wales state but spent her last decades on Norfolk Island, a remote Australian outpost in the Pacific.

Former Akron First Lady, 99, dies
Levona Margaret Erickson, 99, once First Lady of Akron when husband Edward Erickson was mayor in 1962, passed away Jan.  24, 2015. She was born Oct. 23, 1915.

She was born in Glady, an unincorporated community in Randolph County, West Virginia, that is 11 miles southeast of Elkins. Glady lost its post office in 2011.

Her obituary:

Born in Glady, West Virginia to Paul Michael Clark and Marie Ella Ratzer, Levona was the eldest of five children: Maxine, Pauline, Robert and Bernice. Her father's family was Irish-American and her mother's Swiss-American.

Levona met her husband, Edward O. Erickson, while training to become a nurse at Akron City Hospital. They married in 1938 and had two children, Tanya Marie and Edward Oscar.

Levona was a dedicated nurse for more than 50 years, primarily at Akron City Hospital, where she became Head Nurse, and later, after "retiring" to private practice until the age of 85. She also volunteered with the American Red Cross.

She is remembered as a beautiful and graceful hostess with a lively sense of humor. A life-long Democrat, she was deeply interested in politics and debated current issues with friends and family even at the age of 99.

She loved Ohio and would break out singing "Beautiful Ohio" when she went for long drives in the countryside, often to visit family in Deerfield. An enthusiastic bridge player, she spent many long evenings playing with family and friends. She was glue that held her family together, and the constant source for solace and council. She also loved caring for animals and especially loved dogs, who were an important part of her family.

Levona is survived by her daughter, Tanya and her son, Edward (Rick); her grandchildren, Christopher Edward Maggos, Tanya Jean Erickson Cram and Edward Reid Erickson; her great-grandchildren, Anna Maggos, Samuel Maggos and Haley Cram; as well as many nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held on Friday, January 30th from 4 to 6 p.m. at Clifford Shoemaker Funeral Home, 1930 Front Street, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Funeral service is planned for Saturday, January 31st at 11 a.m. at the Union Avenue United Methodist Church, 1843 South Union Ave., Alliance, Ohio.

In lieu of flowers, consider a donation in Levona's name to the American Red Cross, 501 W. Market St., Akron, OH 44303-1898 or Disabled American Veterans.

To view tribute video, send condolences or sign the guestbook visit .
Mark Dawidziak (right) and Paul Bauer on track to fame & film version
Dawidziak book film on TV Feb. 15

The documentary on American writer Jim Tully by PD and former BJ critic Mark Dawidziak and Kent’s Paul Bauer will premiere at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb 15 on Channel 45/49.

Mark Wade Stone produced the film, “Road Kid to Writer – The Tracks of Jim Tully.” Mark and Paul’s book was “Jim Tulley: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler.”

Tulley  achieved fame in the 1920s. His book, "Beggars of Life," became a 1928 movie. He was fired twice by the BJ.

Mark and Paul posted on railroad tracks near Jim's hometown, St. Marys, the location for the film.

The film features original music by Eric Taylor and includes interviews with Tully cousin and St. Marys pal Ned Lawler, as well as Sandra Perlman Halem.

Dennis O'Connell provides the voice of Jim Tully. 

Mickey Mouse move?

Mickey Porter, once a popular columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal before his retirement, instead becomes an angry man-in-the-street quote for a BJ story by business writer Betty Lin-Fisher about FirstMerit Corp. closing 16 branches in four states, including seven in Ohio and four in the Akron area.

Mickey is miffed about the closing in Copley, where he’s banked for five decades. Others are in Ravenna, Massilon and Strongsville.

To quote the Mickey: “I’m livid. Frankly, they’ve got a lot of people in Copley and a lot of people use that bank, and it’s going to be terrible. It’s terrible for me. If another bank relocates there, I’m going to go there.”

If he stays with FirstMerit, Mickey will have to go to Fairlawn or Montrose. 
All 16 branches will close April 30.
Last summer, FirstMerit closed 26 branches, including in the Merriman Valley of Akron.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Overkill or mislocation?

Now that the Godzilla of a blizzard for New Jersey and New York City turned out to be as mythical as the movie giant itself, weather forecasters are soul-searching.

They think maybe they shouldn’t have used such scare-mongering words at “historic,” “epic” and “crippling.”

The storm was bad for the Northeast, just not where most of the attention was gathered. John Stewart on his “Daily Show” on Comedy Central had a field day replaying the panic-inducting pre-“storm” posturing by TV forecasters and news personalities.

The forecast, while off the mark along the southwest fringe – from New York City to Philadelphia – was reasonably accurate for southern New England.

Part of the problem, of course, is that the next time such dire events are forecast, those who remember the colossal misfire may not take cover. Sort of like the boy who cried "Wolf!" too often.

Monday, January 26, 2015

On the Mark with Mel

Mark Dawidziak, my  former co-conspirator on the BJ television desk and current PD critic, dos his usual superb job in an interview with Mel Brooks for his HBO special, "Mel Brooks Live at the Geffen," which will premiere at 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31.

To read Mark’s Q&A of fartmaster Brooks, click on
A literary phoenix

Patricia Smith, who resigned in disgrace in 1998 after she made up characters and quotes in her Boston Globe stories that made her a Pulitzer finalist, in December won the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, awarded by the Library of Congress, and in April she received a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry.

Patricia Smith
She’s an associate professor in the English department at the College of Staten Island, part of the City University of New York.

“It’s been 16 years, you know,” said Ms. Smith, 59. “People have to give you a chance to be who you are now."

She does not talk about how her journalism career imploded, how her marriage fell apart afterward or how she sank into depression over her self-inflicted wounds.

She moved from Boston to New Jersey, with stops in between; found work, for a time, as a columnist at Ms. Magazine; remarried; raised a granddaughter; earned a Master of Fine Arts degree; and soared to a level of literary success that has eluded many writers.

By the time she resigned from the Boston Globe, Ms. Smith had published three books and won four National Poetry Slams.

In 2006, Ms. Smith published “Teahouse of the Almighty,” a National Poetry Series selection that explores sex and sexuality and African-American art. Then came “Blood Dazzler” in 2008, about Hurricane Katrina, a finalist for the National Book Award.

Her latest book, published in 2012, is “Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah,” a memoir in verse that won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 2013 and, last month, the Bobbitt prize.

Walter V. Robinson, who discovered Ms. Smith’s fabrications in the 1990s and is currently The Globe’s editor at large, said that he marvels at her transformation.

“The fact of the matter is that in life, for all of us, we are judged very much by how we bounce back from adversity,” Mr. Robinson said. “In that sense, I’m really heartened by what’s happened in her life.”.

In February, Ms. Smith will read from “Jimi Savannah” at the Library of Congress.

To read Rachel Swarns’ entire artice in the New York Times, click on

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Joe Franklin dies

Longtime New York City radio and television personality Joe Franklin, 88, died.

Franklin was a fixture on late-night radio and TV in New York, working at WJZ and WOR, and recently at the Bloomberg Radio Network.

He interviewed more than 300,000 guests, including Woody Allen, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Bill Cosby and Liza Minnelli.

Franklin was parodied on "Saturday Night Live" by Billy Crystal and played himself in such films as "Manhattan," "Ghostbusters" and "Broadway Danny Rose."

He had more than 50,000 movie stills, 170,000 magazines, 20,000 playbills and 200,000 pieces of sheet music.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A year later, it still hurts

A year ago today I lost someone I respect a lot.

Harry Liggett passed away Jan. 24, 2014.

I wasn’t alone in this feeling. 

Legendary Harry Liggett
Harry’s nephew, Eric Poston, who shows signs of continuing the family journalistic legacy while attending Kent State, wrote:

“A year has already passed since I lost my Great Uncle Harry. Sure will miss taking care of his yard and visiting with him this coming spring and summer. He was a great guy and a true inspiration to go into journalism.”

BJ newsroom retiree Tom Moore wrote:

"A great friend. He sat across the desk from me for 20 years."

BJ newsroom retiree Harry Liggett was the founder of the BJ Alums blog. He ran it the way he did his job at the BJ: Ferocious, determined, gruff but a damned good journalist. 

Harry and the late Pat Engelhart, State Desk editor while Harry and I were his assistant editors, taught me more about how to be a good newspaper editor than I had learned in all my previous years. And I was 38 when I came to the BJ, so I had 16 years of experience already.

Pat Englehart, who died in Florida in 1995, was the whirlwind commander; Harry came along and reorganized the debris. Frances B. Murphey, in her bib overalls, completed the legendary trio.

John S. Knight was the best newspaper owner I ever worked for, so I was quadruple-blessed.

The great love of Harry's life was Helen Smolak Liggett, daughter of Czech immigrants. The last time I visited Harry, he was calling out his name for her, "May! May!" and asking her to come and get him. Shortly after, she did.

Helen passed away June 26, 2010.

I know that nothing stays the same. But my admiration for Harry hasn’t changed with the passing of a year.

And Harry and Helen are together forever, in Akron’s Holy Cross Cemetery and wherever good people go after this life.