No memories more valuable than first-hand accounts

Monday, September 12, 2011

We spent a lot of time thinking about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks this weekend, some of it with young people who had faint or no memory of the event.

It was up to the adults with solid memory of the events to remember how it felt, what we did and what lessons we have learned from the event.

That's why the Fox Theatre film festival, featuring NET films on Nebraska history, as well as a film of local memories, was such an important project. Our congratulations to everyone involved, and best wishes for future endeavors at that important downtown venue.

The first-person accounts have preserved moments in time for future generations, invaluable experience to apply to new challenges in the future.

We've lost just such a valuable resource, as well as friend, at the Gazette today with word of the passing of our former editor over the weekend.

John Franklin Rogers was entitled to a byline like "J. Franklin Rogers," but he was just "Jack" to his readers and co-workers, no trace of ostentation there.

One-time editor, and later publisher Gene O. Morris said he had to scramble to write headlines and find places for the dozens of stories Jack turned in on a daily basis.

And what stories they were.

A McCook native, Jack found himself working at a Lincoln radio station when Charlie Starkweather started his killing spree there. Jack recalled the fear that gripped the community.

While the rest of us only knew of the Hoyt and Fitzgibbons deaths second hand, Jack was on the front line, following up every rumor and providing daily stories on the investigation and trial.

He earned the respect of all involved, notably Harold Nokes, who after he was convicted in the Hoyt murders, specifically asked for an exclusive interview with Jack Rogers.

That respect resulted from his fair treatment of people involved on all sides of every story -- and we never knew him to cave to pressure to "spin" a story.

"He 'glowed' with integrity," is how one co-worker summed it up.

We've lost an invaluable resource in the newsroom, someone able to provide first-hand accounts of not only the stories already mentioned, but others. The time local firemen went on strike, when the City Council enacted a "cat leash law" or unpublished interviews with a former local "madam."

Yes, the Gazette, and the entire community has lost irreplaceable memories of years gone past, as well as perspective that can help guide us into the future.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jack's widow, Ida, and the rest of his family.

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