Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

An editor and then some

Bumping into Dale Garlock was the highlight of anyone's day, with the possible exception of the walleye population.

If community journalism was the man's calling, fishing was his passion, and you could mark your calendar by his annual family fishing trip, where his greatest joy each year has been baiting the hooks with his children, and eventually his grandchildren.

This past summer, he told a co-worker than making the climb up the incline from the lake to the cabin had become an ordeal.

"I think that will probably be the last one I'll be able to take," Dale softly said, as colleague Brooks Taylor relates so well. "I just can't handle climbing the hill any longer."

And on Christmas Eve, he had climbed his last step.

After years of suffering from emphysema, and a recent bout with pneumonia, Dale passed away at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, ending one of the most prolific careers in northwest Iowa newspapering.

When he wasn't fishing, Garlock was editing the Buena Vista County Journal, work he has been associated with since 1961, when he returned to his hometown of Fonda to purchase a small newspaper and serve the community he loved so well.

This past week's Journal still lists Dale as editor in the staffbox, and it will be hard to imagine it otherwise. He's been a fixture for so many years at every meeting, every high school sports contest, every daily debate to solve the troubles of the world over a cup of joe from a familiar table at the Fonda Inn.

Over the years, he's been gracious enough to share some of his camera work with our readers whenever asked, and personally, I can only hope I remembered to thank him for the gentle lessons he's shared about the hometown news business.

Dale Garlock did community journalism the way it was meant to be done. He was involved and passionately protective of his little town and its young people, a warm friend to all, but unbending in his opinions on what he felt was right or wrong for his constituents. He was a tremendous supporter for his beloved Newell-Fonda Mustangs, and it had been hard for him in recent years as declining health kept him from mixing it up on the sidelines and the baselines with his old 35mm.

He was one of a minority of journalists who realize that bigger isn't always better; one of few writers who knew that fancier wasn't always better. And one of few people smart enough to know that once in a while, you just have to unplug it all and go fishing.

He reported on every facet of life the same way he lived himself, straight-ahead, no punches pulled, simple and focused, much the way newspapers were years ago.

That legacy is far from over. I first met Dale's daughter Jody when we were both editors on the Iowa State Daily at ISU back in the '80s. We called her "Fonda" after her hometown, a circumstance Dale would be proud of. She's an exceptional journalist in her own right today, with many statewide magazine credits, and I understand Dale's eldest granddaughter is now entering law school, while his youngest should be just about old enough to bait her first hook.

Until his death, Dale Garlock lived and served in the same town where he was born and schooled. Services were held by the same church where he married his Betty 51 years ago this month. After serving in Korea, and a brief career as a schoolteacher and coach, he found journalism, or journalism found him. Some 2,200 issues or area weekly newspapers later, we are glad for it.

His dedication, ready smile, and friendship will be missed by his fellow journalists around northwest Iowa as well as by his many friends and readers.

I expect that the fish are biting like you wouldn't believe where he's going, and every hill to every lake is free of pain.

But around here, about the only ones who may not be missing our gentleman editor friend are those fat cold-water walleyes with a new lease on life.