This undated photo shows Rob Hiaasen, Capital Gazette Deputy Editor. Hiaasen was one of the victims when an active shooter targeted the newsroom, Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Annapolis, Md. (The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Hundreds celebrate the life of slain Maryland journalist

Rob Hiaasen was one of the victims when an active shooter targeted the newsroom

Days after journalist Rob Hiaasen and four colleagues were shot to death by a gunman who blasted his way into the Capital Gazette’s newsroom, an overflow crowd gathered on Monday evening to remember the man they loved in stories, poems, and songs.

Attendees at the “celebration of life” held at a Maryland nature centre said they would remember Hiaasen for how he lived, rather than the way he died senselessly at the hands of a gunman twisted by hate and festering rage. They sought solace with laughter and funny memories, but sobs occasionally punctuated the ceremony.

“I want to just remember what a wonderful person Rob was and what a great, wonderful, selfless life he led,” said Kevin Cowherd, one of several speakers who addressed the crowd of roughly 500 people assembled beneath a large white tent.

Cowherd, an author who worked with Hiaasen for years at The Baltimore Sun, described him as an open, fun-loving man who found humour in everything. As a writer, Hiaasen was versatile and drawn to the quirky, he said. As a colleague, he was kind and encouraging.

Hannah Hiaasen, his youngest daughter, said the family called him “Big Rob” — a nickname that perfectly fit the assistant managing editor who stood 6-foot-5. But it wasn’t just his height that made the nickname ring true to those who knew him best.

“He had a really, really big heart,” she said, before reading a poem in her dad’s honour.

Meanwhile, Maryland police investigating America’s latest mass murder said Monday that Jarrod Ramos, the man charged with the slayings, sent three threatening letters on the day of the attack. Sgt. Jacklyn Davis, a spokeswoman for Anne Arundel County police, said the letters were received Monday.

Ramos, 38, has a well-documented history of harassing the paper’s journalists. He filed a defamation suit in 2012 that was thrown out as groundless and often railed against them in profanity-laced tweets. Ramos was arrested by police after the attack Thursday. He is in custody and faces five counts of first-degree murder.

Related: 5 dead, others wounded at Maryland newspaper shooting

Related: Suspect in Maryland newspaper shooting to appear on 5 murder charges

Tom Marquardt, the onetime publisher of the Capital Gazette, told The Associated Press at Hiaasen’s memorial that Ramos sent one letter to a company lawyer saying he was on his way to the Annapolis newspaper “to kill as many people” as he could. The letter dated June 28 — the day of the deadly attack — was sent to Robert C. Douglas, a lawyer for the newspaper, Marquardt said.

“In that letter, he was talking to the appeals court judge and suggesting that he didn’t do a very good job on the case and as a result he was going to have to take out his vengeance in a different way,” Marquardt told AP.

Letters were also sent to a Baltimore judge, as well as a judge at the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

At the heartrending gathering for Hiaasen, friends and colleagues lauded him as a dedicated professional who was committed to the craft of journalism and loved mentoring the next generation of reporters. He was remembered for his love of family and enduring pride in his job. He made friends easily and had a bunch of them.

The Baltimore-based novelist Anne Tyler, whose works include “The Accidental Tourist” and the Pulitzer-prize-winning “Breathing Lessons,” joined Hiaasen’s family and colleagues to honour the friend she says she already misses.

“I loved him dearly. I thought he was smart and funny and wise,” Tyler said before the gathering began.

The slain journalist’s brother, Carl Hiaasen, a prolific novelist and a longtime Miami Herald columnist, on Friday described his younger sibling as “a person of phenomenal grace.”

Hiaasen had just celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary with his wife, Maria, whose birthday was on the day of the newsroom attack. His widow, displaying great strength along with the couple’s three children, said Rob was her best friend and a loving, generous partner.

“I’m going to try and hold him here,” she said, clasping her hands to her heart.

___

Associated Press Writer Brian Witte contributed to this report in Annapolis.

David McFadden, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Update: Power restored to 2,000 Lake Country homes

The cause of the outage is unknown

Vernon police arrest 27-year-old woman in relation to suspicious hedge fire

Police are investigating alleged arson and mischief incident.

Okanagan Wildfires: An evening update on wildfires and evacuations

A Saturday evening look at the major wildfires impacting the Okanagan and Similkameen.

UPDATE: BX, Irish Creek fires out

Vernon fire snuffed out, along with earlier reported fire near Sugar Lake

Vernon dentist gifts new drug to local patient

NuCalm has proven its effectiveness with over a million dental patients and thousands of others in mental distress.

BC Games: Day 2 comes to an end

Hundreds of medals have been handed out at the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

Vernon poet shines bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Gallery Vertigo July 21

Update: Mount Eneas wildfire holds at 1,374 hectares

Fire chief Dennis Craig said wind was blowing the fire away from homes

Update: Okanagan Mountain Park fire holds at 400 hectares

The wildfire, also called Goode’s Creek wildfire, continues to burn near Kelowna

Car thief nabbed by Mounties on wildfire duty

RCMP working wildfires deploy spike belt to nab alleged auto thief from Oliver.

B.C. mining company, involved in 2014 spill, ordered to pay lost wages

Mount Polley Mining Company must pay wages to 26 employees who were laid off without proper notice

Two significant wildfires burning in southeastern B.C.

More than 20 fires were burning in the Southeast Fire Centre as of Saturday afternoon

Volunteers provide the glue that keeps BC Games moving

The 2018 Cowichan Summer Games had more than 2,300 volunteers on hand across Vancouver Island

No Name brand chicken nuggets recalled due to possible salmonella

Canadian Food Inspection Agency says multiple illnesses reported in B.C., Alberta and Ontario

Most Read