RARA-AVIS: Dick Stodghill, RIP

From: Todd Mason (foxbrick@yahoo.com)
Date: 11 Nov 2009

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    Veteran Muncie newsman dies at 84

    By JOHN CARLSON jcarlson@... November 10, 2009

    MUNCIE -- Dick Stodghill died Sunday night.

    That probably shouldn't be so surprising. After all, the former Muncie Evening Press reporter and columnist was 84 years old and facing a slew of health issues including edema, the cumulative effects of an old bout with heart failure, plus a longtime brain tumor, one that his doctors thought had begun growing and blamed for seizures he had suffered of late.

    "He couldn't fight them all at one time," his wife of 33 years, Jackie, said Monday in a call from their Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio home.

    But for those of us who respected, admired and even loved him, somehow it comes as a shock.

    Stodghill, who enjoyed a stiff drink and craved a good pipe, was a tough guy, a man who didn't suffer fools or bigots gladly.

    "He had integrity without bounds," Jackie said.

    The consummate writer, he had covered the courts here for years with a sterling mix of skill and style, the same qualities he then employed as an award-winning columnist, including a long stretch when he penned five newspaper columns a week, year in and year out, until 1990.

    Even as he aged and his health failed, he embraced blogging as another outlet for his tireless drive to write.

    "He had a fabulous memory," Jackie recalled, discussing the stories that flowed from his word processor. "He could have a blog about a clump of dirt and make it interesting."

    Stodghill wrote far more than all that, though. A former Pinkerton Detective Agency operative himself, he was a longtime fan of classic mystery writers, whose attributes he could discuss at length, and during an earlier, temporary retirement from his newspaper work, tried his hand at it with amazing results.

    A fan of short stories, his soon began to appear regularly in top mystery publications, most notably Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Even after his eventual return to newspaper work, he was a regular contributor, his stories frequently culled for hard-cover collections published by groups like Mystery Writers of America and Private Eye Writers of America.

    Indeed, during last month's Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Indianapolis, his story Panic on Portage Path was a nominee for a 2009 Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America.

    Chances are pretty good he was the only octogenarian nominee.

    "He never changed," Jackie said. "Dick was Dick."

    Stodghill collected many of his magazine stories in books like Case Files of Jack Eddy, Midland Murders and Rough Old Stuff, the last of which featured ones published in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

    Other books he published were outside the mystery genre. There was the story of a famous old band, The Hoosier Hot Shots, the story of a relative's march through turbulent times, From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator, and a comprehensive history of Central High School's Bearcat basketball teams that he and Jackie logged countless hours and miles researching.

    And then there was Normandy 1944: A Young Rifleman's War.

    If you knew Stodghill, you knew the sight of the unique ring he wore featuring a small version of the Army's Combat Infantryman Badge. He was 17 when he enlisted in 1943, then fought his way across Western Europe with the 4th Infantry Division.

    What he left behind in that book is a treasure.

    It's as fine a war memoir as you'll ever read, an uncompromising look back at the horrors encountered, and the courage exhibited, by his own Band of Brothers, a television series which he thought did a good job of portraying the realities they shared.

    To read Stodghill's book, to know exactly what he and his buddies who made it through the war survived, tells you why he was still wearing that special ring when the end came, and why never, for a single day in the intervening years, did those memories leave his mind.

    That may explain why he insisted there be no funeral service, nor a standard obituary, to mark his death.

    The 65 years since that scared young American infantryman first set foot on French soil?

    For Stodghill, they were all a gift.

    (Courtesy Paul Di Filippo on the FictionMags list)

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