By: Colleen Slevin, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Rocky Mountain News columnist Gene Amole, who has always loved the hubbub of the newsroom, is working from home these days, because that is where he has gone to die. But his readers know that already.
Amole has turned his column into a diary of his death. The beloved columnist who has informed, entertained, and irked readers for nearly 25 years informed them Oct. 27 that he is dying.
“I finally reached the point where I realized there is no cure for the many ailments nibbling away at what is left of my life,” he wrote.
“My diary is not going to be a maudlin self-serving bunch of glop. Some of it may even be amusing, like my discovery of the elevated toilet seat, for example. I wish it all could be funny, but it isn’t.”
Amole, 78, has been in poor health for years, suffering from heart problems, high blood pressure, bad circulation and other maladies. His hands shake so much it is about all he can do to punch out a complete sentence. His weight has dropped from 170 pounds to 135 and his arm is so weak he has trouble holding a telephone for a long period of time.
From home, Amole writes in his three-times-a-week column that the trick is to stay busy. He writes of people asking how long he has left to live (six months is typical of patients in the hospice program, he says), of cleaning out his closet, and of preparing for a medical procedure to open his throat to improve digestion.
And he reflects on his own mortality and the simple pleasures in life, including his family, old friends, drinking a martini, sparkling October mornings, Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, shrubs in his back yard that have turned a brilliant crimson.
A native of Denver, Amole (pronounced AY-mul) begin his career in radio in 1942, then left to fight in Europe during World War II. He returned to radio, then became a TV pioneer, writing and producing from the first week that commercial television went on the air in Denver in 1952. He won a Peabody Award as writer and host of a live, half-hour show in the late 1950s.
Amole’s first News column, on Dec. 18, 1977, was a rhapsodic piece titled “Morning” that described daybreak across the city, from gritty East Colfax Avenue to suburban reservoirs. He promised to write “as spare and understandable” as possible so readers could decide early if they would rather turn to Charlie Brown or Denver Broncos stories.
He also promised to speak out against bureaucracy, pollution, and ugly buildings.
Over the years, he became known for his punchy one- or two-word leads and crisp sentences that mixed the serious with the humorous. He has taken a stand and stuck to it even if it proved to be a losing battle, such as his opposition to the construction of Denver International Airport.
Some of his most moving columns have been about World War II. On Christmas Eve 1981, he described how he and fellow soldiers celebrated Christmas 1944 in a small German farm town. They cut down a small spruce and gave it some glitter with a star cut from a C-ration can and empty brass shell casings.
Ordered to move out, they left the tree in the middle of the street, turning to see a child look at the tree and at the men. “She was crying,” he wrote.
In September, he drew angry letters for writing about unheroic actions of some World War II soldiers. He described a soldier who cut off fingers of dead soldiers to loot wedding rings and another who was “battle rattled” when he killed four fellow soldiers while they slept.
“Most of us who fought in that bloody thing did the best we could, but there were truths about us not revealed in Hollywood films and by historian like Stephen Ambrose,” he said.
As his body failed him, Amole had long talks with his wife, Trish, and his four adult children before he decided to “quit fighting for my life every inch of the way.” He remains at home under hospice care, taking medication to ease his pain.
Readers have written in to express their appreciation for Amole’s final columns.
“I have been reading your stories probably since I was old enough to read and you were old enough to write. Thanks for all the joy and insight you have given. Stories are a wonderful gift and will live beyond us all,” Mary Louise MacRossie wrote.
At the competing Denver Post, columnist Chuck Green said that while Amole has been called a curmudgeon and worse, he was never dishonest or unfaithful to his beliefs.
As for Amole, he said he does not believe in heaven or hell.
“So far as I know, I get to die only once,” he said, “and I’ll just have to do it my own way.”