By Stephanie Kuzydym
Roy Hewitt was …
If you knew him, you know that sentence ending is complex, yet simple. You have your own story as to how it ends: whether you wrote for him on deadline, covered a massive sporting event, met him at an APSE conference or just knew him as a friend.
Roy Hewitt is a man who will live forever in the journalists he championed. We are all better for knowing him.
Paul Hoynes met his new sports editor in 1993. On March 22, two players died in a boating accident in Winter Haven, Fla.
“The first call I got was from him,” Hoynes said. “He really helped me. He gave me advice on how to do the stories. I really appreciated that.
“He’d already been at big papers at Philly and Minneapolis and he knew how to cover a big story. He was very, very good at that. As a beat guy, he always had your back.”
The big event Roy loved most? The Olympics.
He gave Hoynes the opportunity to cover the winter Olympics in 2006 in Torino.
“That was his baby and I was along for the ride,” Hoynes said. “He just let you do your job. … He was a great advocate for women’s sportswriters, too.”
Roy Hewitt was … it’s a sentence difficult for me to type.
I am one of those women for whom he advocated.
I met Roy at the 2010 APSE convention in Salt Lake City. As the convention photographer and a junior at Indiana University, I was there to cover the event. When I covered the mentor/mentee meet-up, I didn’t expect to gain a lifetime mentor.
That day, my life changed forever. Each June, we’d text each other about that day. It rolls like a movie film in my mind. I know each frame perfectly. His somewhat gruff exterior upon first meeting. His smile that eases tension. His jolly laugh.
We both loved appetizers, so we were there early. The room was nearly empty. Roy was standing at his own table. He smiled, picked up his plate and asked me who my mentor was. Since I wasn’t technically an attendee, I wasn’t assigned a mentor.
“Everyone needs a mentor,” Roy said.
Across the next decade, he became a mentor, a listener and family.
He and his amazing wife, Linda, welcomed me every year for a trip.
Exactly seven years ago, I followed his footsteps, working in the very department he spent 30 years making the decisions for: the sports department of The Plain Dealer.
I moved into the house he spent raising his daughter and son, Carey and Randy. I learned about them growing up and their successful careers now. I ate eggs, over-easy, with toast made in a pan Carey had specially bought for him to make this breakfast. Man, could he cook.
As he cooked, I’d drink coffee in his Olympics mug and read The Plain Dealer.
Did you read Terry (Pluto)’s column? Not yet.
How about Hoynsie’s coverage? Yes sir.
Read what Bud Shaw and Mary Kay Cabot and Mary Schimtt Boyer wrote? I am.
He taught me about sentence structure, sourcing and ethics. He introduced me to W.C. Heinz and Red Smith and Grantland Rice.
Then came the teachings of Gene Roberts, the executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer for 18 years.
In my dorm room above my desk were the words Roy sent me five months into mentoring me in an email titled “Thought you might like this …”
“I have always kept the description on a card in my desk,” Roy wrote. “Keep these thoughts in your head; they’ll serve you well.”
They became my guiding principle.
“The Eugene L. Roberts Jr. Prize is meant to encourage and is dedicated to:
The story of the untold event that oozes instead of breaks;
To the story that reveals, not repeats;
To the reporter who zigs instead of zags;
To the truth, as opposed to the facts;
To the forest, not just the trees;
To the story they’ll be talking about in the coffee shop on Main Street;
To the story that answers not just who, what, where, when and why, but also, “So what?”;
To efforts at portraying real life itself;
To journalism that “wakes me up and makes me see”;
To the revival of the disappearing storyteller.”
From this came Roy’s constant piece of advice: zig when everyone else zags.
He became my compass and the direction pointed toward zig.
But his mentorship became about more than just journalism. Roy taught me how to live.
My favorite place in the Midwest is around a half-court shaped island of his Brecksville home with some country music playing on the TV, Nancy’s pasta cooking on the stove, appetizers from Heinen’s (the local grocery store) spread across the island, a glass of Jack with a splash of water in hand and a glass of full-bodied red wine waiting for when dinner was ready.
That’s where I learned about who Roy was outside of a sports editor.
I tell you all of this because Roy used to email me the best-written obituaries. He loved how they captured someone so well and what that person truly meant to the world.
Except there are two problems:
1. I’m having a hard time accepting he’s not still a text-in-the-middle-of-my-work-day away.
2. He is so many things to so many people we could fill a whole special section about what he meant to the world. And man, does he deserve it.
“I think his legacy will be all of us, the journalists he taught,” Hoynes said. “Somebody has to tell the stories and he found the right people to do that.”
We have to zig while everyone else zags. For Roy.
Photo of Roy Hewitt, taken in June 2011. (Allison Carey/The Plain Dealer)
Here’s a link to Cleveland.com’s remembrance: