Kiesling remembered as gifted, dedicated, madcap newsman

2012-12-16T00:00:00Z 2012-12-19T10:51:06Z Kiesling remembered as gifted, dedicated, madcap newsmanBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
December 16, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Colleagues, former colleagues and others who knew late Times staff writer and columnist Mark Kiesling or appreciated his work shared their memories of him or their reaction to his death Thursday. The Times compiled, and includes here, a sampling of their emails and Facebook musings as a tribute to him.

 

He helped make the region a better place to live. He flushed out the shenanigans of a host of characters in Lake County government. Mark’s witty and wise writings — and his unique perception of life around him — made me laugh, and cry, get mad sometimes, and act. I will forever be grateful for the years I worked alongside this fine newsman. Northwest Indiana has, in a very real sense, lost its modern-day Mark Twain. — Debra Gruszecki, former Times staff writer

 

Mark's column was my favorite. He will be missed. — Jim Hoffman, Times reader

 

Kiesling was a talker. Some of us younger reporters rolled our eyes when he'd launch into one of his stories from back in the day. But when we shut up and listened, it was worth the 20-minute tangent. There was always something to take away, some lesson learned through his experience. He was a master at his craft, and his name was cursed by every person he exposed for wrongdoing. He didn't care. It meant he was doing his job. — Vanessa Renderman, Times health reporter

 

I knew him for 35 years. Unusual, good writer, quirky, good heart. Tough times for him. He had a sadness about him this year. Too young and too soon to go. May he be with God in the palm of his hand. Will be missed in many different ways. — Lake County Surveyor George Van Til

 

Mark had many great qualities and talents. Among them was to use his column voice to resonate with the reader. It was as though, when he’d take somebody to task in print, you could imagine Joe Six Pack, at home or in some smoke-filled back room, yelling, “Attaboy, Kiesling!” He was much more than The Times’ columnist. He was the Region’s voice. — Paul Mullaney, Times managing editor

 

Mark will be missed by so many. I have known him since I was a child. He was always a caring, sincere man. He even stored his ’57 Chevy in our garage for a while! — Jennifer White, Times reader

 

Mark and I started at The Times the same year, 1985. Inevitably our conversations would go back to our previous lives. We both worked at Burger's Supermarkets back in the day, though not at the same store. Some of us were surprised, lately, when Mark started driving, not his usual cop car, but a Jaguar. He once pointed out that he believed the police in England drive Jaguars. I dunno. We'll miss you, Mark. — John J. Watkins, Times director of photography

 

About two months ago, a hole appeared in the floor behind (Times Sports Writer) Al Hamnik's desk. Al claimed he saw mice on a nearby workspace, and that the mice were coming in and out of the hole. I mentioned it to the maintenance staff, who sent out a newsroom-wide email warning people. Kiesling found a plastic rat someone was using for a Halloween decoration and placed it in the hole, so it was popping out fangs-first when Hamnik came in the next day. Over the course of the week I'd just sit back and laugh as he moved that rat around Al's workspace — it would appear on his desktop, on his chair, on the floor nearby. Turns out there were never any real mice, but Al eventually named the plastic rat, never knowing it was Kiesling who'd been messing with him. — Courtney Linehan, Times sports editor

 

A skilled reporter with a gimlet eye and a nose for horse hockey, Mark also was probably one of the finest writers The Times ever had. He could write about anything — and often did, from trenchant investigative probes to sublimely rendered profiles of region life, such as his 1997 magnum opus on the smells of the region. Still, what I will remember most fondly was his entertaining, encyclopedic knowledge of, well, everything — from sports, politics and history, to books, movies and TV shows. His instant recall of a crazily wide range of information was delightful, from World War II generals to 1960s cartoon shows (does anyone else remember "Bongo Congo?" Mark did, even imitating the skunk, True Blue Odie O. Cologne). Perhaps this is what made him such a wonderful conversationalist as well as writer. His wry sense of humor and razor wit could make me fall to pieces laughing. Often. And, because Mark had a deep, understanding side, he was a great and true friend to me over the 16 years I worked with him. Memory eternal, dear pal. — Crista Zivanovic, Times assistant managing editor

 

I had been away from The Times and hadn’t seen Mark for maybe seven years or so. But just a couple of weeks ago I had a chance encounter at Glenwood Oaks Restaurant. He was in good spirits. We spent awhile getting reconnected, and I introduced him to my parents who were big fans of his. I told Mark how much I respected his job, because I know how hard it is to come up with a good column every day. I’m glad I had that time with Mark before his untimely passing. When you consider the many lives he touched as a writer, he led a life that made a lasting impact. — Jim Masters, Times correspondent

 

Column writing can be an agonizing exercise, but Mark had such skill as a writer that he made it look effortless, whether it was a clever turn of phrase or a rhetorical shiv stuck in a deserving target. Every time I talked with him, I learned something new. No one had the institutional knowledge of the region - warts and all - that he had. - Robert Blaszkiewicz, assistant managing editor

 

He was not only a talented man, but one who could lift spirits, step up for the little guy and absolutely just kick butt when needed. — Mark Fitton, former Times night editor

 

Very sorry to hear of Mark's passing. He has been a watchdog for NW IN. His columns and Political Roundtable participation will be sorely missed. — Jon Miller, Times reader

 

As a cub reporter freshly out of college in 1986, I looked up to Mark for his experience, humor and fire-in-the-belly news sense. The latter is a rare quality that I like to believe I picked up from Mark and other veterans of that era. Mark further left a lasting impression on me when I first left The Times in the late 1980s or early 1990s. During a farewell gathering near the then-newly opened Munster building, he gifted me with a hand-drawn comic strip that humorously and thoughtfully summed up my experiences at the paper and captured who I was at that time. I still have that comic strip and hold on to it along with my fond memories of those golden years of journalism. — Robert Kasarda, Times staff writer

 

I was deeply saddened to hear of the sudden death of Mark Kiesling. He served the people of Indiana well through his tough reporting and commentary that exposed corruption and shed light on many of the critical issues of the day. He was one of the good guys, fighting the same corruption that we were in the Secretary of State’s office. As a fellow Munster High graduate and longtime Lake County citizen, I know Mark did the region proud through his life’s work. We will miss his unique insights. — U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, of Indiana's 4th District

 

I remember being introduced to Mark in the mid-1980s when I was a deputy prosecutor. He was a personable fellow and approachable. You could talk to him and get your point across to him. He gave me that opportunity. He never wrote a story out of meanness or wanting to hurt somebody. He had a great sense of humor. He was an intelligent journalist. I remember him telling me about taking his son to a ball game. We were able to exchange laughs and jokes; we always kept it on a professional level. I remember I and Bernie Carter played a gag on him once coming back from a press conference in Will County, Ill. I spotted his car was ahead of ours. I called him on his cellphone and told him there was a state trooper behind him and he better slow down. He knew who it was and answered, "Where are you at, sheriff?" — Roy Dominguez, former Lake County sheriff

 

Complete loss for the paper and community, as well as younger reporters who needed and loved his wisdom, whether or not we realized it. — Christine Kraly, former Times staff writer

 

Mark Kiesling was known as a serious journalist, but I'll remember his funny, madcap side. I remember him getting up and dancing an impromptu polka, in the middle of the newsroom, with staff photographer John Watkins at a holiday event. We also shared a love of the Three Stooges and Mark could imitate Curly Howard with the best of them. Mark always told me I was one of the few women he knew who was a Stooges fan. I'd always answer, "soitenly," in my best Curly imitation. — Deborah Laverty, Times staff writer

 

I remember Mark as the most prolific and trusted reporter at The Times. — Jay Judge, former Times employee

 

We worked closely together at the Daily Cal (before we both came to The Times). It was my first newspaper job, and I learned a lot from Mark about being a good reporter, about seeing through BS from sources, and about the awesome responsibility of journalism. He had a dry, razor-sharp wit, and a depth of curiosity about local politics that would leave his colleagues in the dust. Mark was the essence of a newsman. He had a healthy cynicism for all things official, and a great sense of humor. He was loved, appreciated, and will be missed. — Michael Zajakowski, former Times director of photography

 

When I was public information officer at the prosecutor's office, he often knew what was going on in court before I did, or he found out some things we didn't want him to know. He made some really good sources in the office with the deputy prosecutors who liked classic cars, like he did. He did a good job covering that office. — Diane Poulton, Times correspondent

 

As always, Mark in his final column was a voice for common sense, finding the balance somewhere between the extreme conservative and liberal positions — don't tax people more than necessary, but understand that taxes are necessary for the state to provide public services that constituents cannot provide for themselves individually. — Cliston Brown, former Times staff writer

 

I was in the Munster office just last week and saw Mark sitting at his desk next to Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross and said, "I haven't seen you in ages." Mark, hunched over his screen, looked up, swiveled around in his chair and said he was fine. Things were going great. I was in the office Thursday night working on a story after covering a school meeting when I received an email about Mark passing. I was stunned. I just kept seeing him in my mind's eye, sitting at his desk, hunched over his computer typing away. — Carmen McCollum, Times staff writer

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