In honor of a noble life ‘Shooting the Rapids’

Rough days for Itasca County newspapering. Longtime Grand Rapids Herald-Review editor and columnist Ken Hickman died Sunday at the age of 93. He had just retired from his regular column last December. It was a true community column, each paragraph dedicated to someone he talked to or something that happened that week.

The Herald-Review published a fine story, but Hickman’s obituary is probably better. My favorite section:

During his nearly 40 years as editor, the Herald-Review was rated one of the top community newspapers in the state. It was a lively record for Grand Rapids and Itasca County — utilizing large photos with every person identified — clear, readable writing, fair and impartial news stories with no personal feelings interjected. That was for the editorial page, he felt.

He wrote Up In This Neck of the Woods columns from 1947 to 1966. His personal column, Shooting the Rapids, began in 1949 and ended in December 2011, when at the age of 92 and no longer driving, he decided he didn’t have enough access to material to keep the column fresh and timely.

Ron Kirsch, University of Florida educator, son of Ken’s longtime pal Warren Kirsch said, “Ken captured the heart and soul of this community — with a few paragraphs twice-a-week. With clarity and gentle good humor, Ken celebrated the people of Itasca County. There was never a mean-spirited or attacking column. He described us to ourselves, and made us better people for it.”

My goodness, isn’t that the job? Why is something so simple so hard to find? Well, Hickman did the job well and for a very long time. I regret that I did not introduce myself to him when he sat in front of us at community theater production of “Chicago” last year. Don’t waste those opportunities, folks.

Hickman’s column was called “Shooting the Rapids.” You know, the “rapids” keep going. If one paddler gets out, others continue on. Just keep paddling as long as you can.

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