Thursday December 5, 2013
Gridley, Ready to Fire on Command, Sir!Tim King Salem-News.com
Remembering our Op-Ed writer Henry Clay Ruark, who was part of our team from day one.
(SALEM) - Henry Clay Ruark was one of Salem-News.com's original writers and staff members from our earliest time. There aren't many people in that original group today; Glen Bledsoe, Lela Taylor, David Duncan, Matt , Lee Coyne and I are about it. Hank was an original man, he walked his own road based on what he believed was right, and he thought about the greater public welfare at all times.
In his life Henry was a newspaper reporter; educational and audio-visual media specialist; agency, institution, corporate public information officer; national trade magazine publisher and editor; and Chicago-based communications media consultant for agency, institution, individual and corporate clients.
Splitting careers between journalism and education, he wrote and worked for many newspapers while continuing in educational assignments. He has taught at every level; from grades to graduate school, agency/institution seminars, and corporate conferences. He wrote, edited and produced both print and visual learning media in all formats, and wrote for weeklies, dailies, newsletters, journals and magazines.
At 94, Hank was still writing ”on assignment” and generating a flow of articles for our editors, working for years as the Salem-News.com Op-Ed writer, as he served in this same capacity for decades with other news organizations.
Hank was registered as a Democrat, but said he disregarded any and all political-party disciplinary or bias for “the precious independence demanded as foundation for professional reporting”. He insisted that one cannot be Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, any more than one can be four-legged and two-faced. Probing, controversial, confirmed conversation (read:”honest, open, democratic dialog”) demands writer be independent, Hank firmly believed.
In March 2007, I wrote the article: Salem-News Writer is a Patriarch Among Oregon Journalists. The article in its entirety is included below:
While Henry Clay Ruark will continue to write stories for Salem-News.com from Central Oregon.
You see, at the age of 89, Hank is a patriarch among journalists in this state; his son Jeremy operates a radio newsroom in Bend, Oregon, while his other son Loren works as a main point man at Eugene's KVAL TV.
Back in the early 1990's when I was the News Director of Oregon coastal radio stations KCRF and KBCH, Jeremy was with Salem's AM station KBZY and we competed fiercely for the 1991 Oregon Associated Press Cooperation Award by providing news stories to the rest of Oregon via the AP.
Loren is Hank's son who has major mileage with the local news industry in Oregon. Today Loren shoots and sets up live shots for KVAL in Eugene. When I worked as photojournalist/reporter for Portland's ABC affiliate KATU Channel-2, Loren helped me countless times in the field on Salem stories that Portland and Eugene both covered.
Loren is the only TV news guy I've ever known who has his name painted on the side of his live truck. It reminds me of the nose art on a WWII bomber.
With almost nine decades of life under his belt, Henry Clay Ruark is living history. He is young at heart though, and he easily belies his age with an appearance and spirit of a younger man.
What impresses me the most is Hank's value system. He never became stale in his thought process, he never aged in the wrong ways, and he always places a special emphasis in getting the details right and crediting his sources.
"Op-Eds published in Salem-News are specially researched and thoroughly documented to bring you the best possible summary of realities directly affecting you, as we see them."
One interesting development is Henry's relocation to Bend, Oregon where he will reestablish the operation he has been at the wheel of for many years, Learning Management Associates.
He is joining son Jeremy --corporate news director for Combined Communications there-- in a single-level residence with office space for further LMA activities and Op-Ed reports for Salem-News.
While Hank will continue to write stories for Salem-News.com about the Oregon Legislature, he will also diversify our coverage of the state by living in Central Oregon.
His sometimes controversial "Opinion" pieces will continue, resuming next week. Watch for his next Op-Ed transmitted on Wednesday. _____________
The 'Gridley' connection
Hank used to jokingly call me 'Gridley' in our frequent email communication and it would usually end with something like, 'Aye aye sir, Gridley is at the gun and ready!' and to be honest, I always only vaguely knew the historical reference! I believe Hank referred to it once on the phone in early conversations, and then 'Gridley' and "ready to fire sir" became locked into place... this is what happens when you work with a person who has watched the modern world that we know develop in real time. Born in 1917- Hank was the same age as my dad who I lost several years ago. This Great Generation knew real hardship, they witnessed a Holocaust, so many human mistakes and triumphs.
Commodore George Dewey, 1 May 1898, at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. The American squadron entered Manila Bay and took fire from the Spanish fleet, anchored under the guns of Cavite, for half an hour until in the position Dewey wanted. Then Dewey addressed his order to Charles Gridley, captain of Dewey's flagship Olympia.
[Dewey, George. Autobiography of George Dewey, Admiral of the Navy. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1913) 214.]
What happened was that I developed the sign off '-G' for Gridley and for a long time, years... I did not use my name when communicating with Hank, only '-G'.
It reached the point a few weeks ago, that Hank needed to clarify that he was indeed talking to me... It was one of the only things that may have shown his age in our thousands of emails and even then, I think anyone may have wanted to eventually pin that down, as email is faceless communication and we never bothered with '-G' on the phone.
I wrote this in February:
Hank's response was rich with character, he references another writer in Oregon we have carried, Richard Reid:
Then when I published what I believe was Hank's last article, he wrote:
Hank Ruark nailed it many times, he had a deep, profound understanding of politics and their interaction with humanity in the real application. His enemies were very real and they are politicians who absolutely hated the way this writer exposed the very last things they wanted aired. Too bad he didn't just get here, even at 94 Hank put fear into the greedy corrupt forces that sadly, have all too much to do with the current picture.
Rest in peace Hank!
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