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Scrabble Death: Terry Oblander (20111113 – Frankly November 13, 2011)

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I’ve known Terry Oblander for years, drawn to him by the commonality of our profession: reporter, he at newspapers and I at radio and tv stations. Truth is most times I’d rather listen to his stories than play Scrabble (copyright til you die). How he, like me, was down-sized out of jobs. Unlike me, he reared his kids basically alone and volunteered his time for a dozen programs. Last time I saw him was a month or so before I went to the hospital. Next time I heard about him was through the headline of a newspaper. I miss him

Terry Oblander was a Pulitzer-winning journalist and a Public Squares puzzle maker: news obituary

Published: Monday, November 14, 2011, 3:13 PM     Updated: Monday, November 14, 2011, 4:29 PM
Grant Segall By Grant Segall 
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MEDINA, Ohio — An official once called a press conference at the Akron-Canton Airport to announce that he’d fly to Texas to promote the airport.

A small story, to be sure, but reporter Terry Oblander made it a little bigger. He learned that the official would fly out of Cleveland Hopkins International.

Oblander, a long-time area journalist and Public Squares puzzle maker, died Sunday, Nov. 13, at the Cleveland Clinic about two weeks after a heart attack. He was 64.

His life was fairly short and challenging. He nursed a dying wife in 1992, then raised their three boys, including an infant. He brought the boys to some meetings he covered and somehow attended all their ballgames.

There were triumphs, too, at Ravenna’s Record-Courier, the Akron Beacon Journal and The Plain Dealer. Among several prizes, he shared a first place from the Associated Press of Ohio for coverage of a murder and a 1987 Pulitzer for coverage of a threatened takeover of Goodyear.

Through the ups and downs, the big, shaggy-haired Oblander told memorable stories with memorable laughter. It would start as a little wheeze. Then look out.

For the past 10 years, he tickled Plain Dealer readers six days a week with Public Squares, a puzzle of scrambled words and homegrown puns:

“Q. What did tipsy sailors say when they returned to the USS Cod from a bar?”

“A. Down the hatch.”

The generous author made a few free puzzles to help readers commemorate birthdays or anniversaries.

Over the decades, he covered politics, labor, suburban news, the Kent State shootings and much more. He was also president of the Beacon’s Local 7 for journalists and janitors.

Plain Dealer Editor Debra Adams Simmons said, “Terry Oblander was a thoughtful, dedicated journalist who spent his career chronicling the stories of Northeast Ohio. He was creative and quirky and always looking for new ways to push Public Squares to the next level.”

Steve Luttner, a former Plain Dealer reporter, said, “Terry Oblander was a pure, battle-tested newsman…. He was totally honest and unflinchingly direct.”

Oblander was born in Cleveland and raised in Olmsted Falls. He graduated from Cuyahoga Community College and attended Kent State University.

He spent 13 months with the Record-Courier, partly as religion editor and farms editor. He lived with some colleagues in a Ravenna home they called the “Lock Street Rock Festival.”

Then came 19 years at the Beacon, mostly as a reporter, but also a copy editor, assistant metro editor and assistant state editor. He also wrote a puzzle called Groaners and a column of short news items called Ideas and a citizens band radio column called CB Break.

He tried to be objective but never dull. A Republican leader once complained that Oblander had registered as a Democrat. Oblander retorted that Ohio wouldn’t register voters as Socialists.

Bob Downing, now the Beacon’s environmental reporter, teamed with Oblander for a couple of years to cover Portage County. Said Downing, “He’d come back so excited about what he’d seen at government meetings. He’d chase little stories down. His passion rubbed off on everybody.”

In 1990, Oblander wrote a folksy application to The Plain Dealer: “I like being a reporter. A lot.” He mentioned his “lousy grades” at Kent State but said, “I’m sure we could stick it to any competition.”

He warned that he’d need comprehensive health insurance for his wife, the former Mary O’Neill, who went blind from juvenile diabetes. Her father, Dan, moved in with the family in Stow to help out. In 1992, she bore her last child and died five months later.

Oblander took a leave of absence for a time. He raised the children with help from Dan. In 1996, he married the former Linda Monroe and moved the family to Medina.

He spent most of his PD career at bureaus in Summit and Medina counties. He also planned and oversaw reports of election results at the main office in Cleveland.

As a young boy, he could instantly unscramble words. He won many Scrabble tournaments over the years and organized a few. He started freelancing Public Squares in 2001.

Oblander moved to the PD’s downtown office in 2007 and left the paper in 2008. In his final years, he kept freelancing Public Squares. He also wrote features for the Beacon, babysat his grandsons, competed in a fantasy baseball league and helped start and run bookstores for Project: LEARN of Medina County, a literacy program.

He always wrote Public Squares a few weeks ahead. The last one is scheduled to run on Dec. 3.

Terence Leroy Oblander 

1947-2011

Survivors: Wife, the former Linda Monroe; father, Jacob Leroy of Parma Heights; sons, Terence Jacob of Montville Township, Medina, Christopher Daniel of Middleburg Heights, Nicholas Patrick of Medina and two grandsons. 

Memorial Service: 10:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at Waite & Son Funeral Home., 765 N. Court St., Medina, Ohio. 

Contributions: Project: LEARN of Medina County, 105 W. Liberty St., Medina, OH 44256, projectlearnmedina.org.

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Written by frankieleeee

December 11, 2011 at 3:17 pm

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