By: Colleen Slevin, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Longtime Rocky Mountain News columnist Gene Amole, who wrote affectingly about his hometown and his generation, then turned his column into a diary of his final months, has died. He was 78.
Amole died Sunday surrounded by his family in his study, where he wrote many of his final columns, the newspaper said. He had suffered for years from heart problems, high blood pressure, and other maladies, and left a final column to be published after his death.
“In life, we ask where have I been, and where am I going?” he wrote in the column, printed in Monday’s editions. “In death, I don’t know where I am going or if I shall even exist. I have been to a lot of wonderful places, though, and I am grateful for the journey.”
Amole (pronounced AY-mul) had told readers in October that he was dying and began writing reflections on his illness and mortality. But he also wrote of the simple pleasures in life, including his family, old friends, martinis and sparkling October mornings.
In one stretch, Amole wrote his “diary pages” in every edition of the News — six days per week — for 17 consecutive weeks.
“My diary is not going to be a maudlin self-serving bunch of glop,” he wrote. “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, whose first column appeared in 1977, was to the Mile High City what Herb Caen was to San Francisco, although he eschewed the man-about-town style he believes he was hired to write. Instead he wrote about issues both personal and political and never backed down. One losing battle was his opposition to building Denver International Airport.
“Gene Amole was the voice of this city and the heart of this newspaper,” News Editor and Publisher John Temple said in Monday’s edition. “He always called himself an ordinary guy. In fact, he was an extraordinary person because he could communicate in such a direct and genuine way.”
Readers got to know Amole’s wife and four children by name, and he even offered conversational recipes for dishes like meatloaf and chili sauce.
Column writing was a third career for Amole, who began in radio in 1942, then became a TV pioneer, writing and producing from the first week 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.
In Monday’s column, he said goodbye to “my Denver” and said he wondered what his last thoughts were, but suspected they were about his family.
“How fortunate I was to have had my family near me when I died. I lived for them. They were my reason to be. I hope they know how much I really loved them,” he said. “Now, I’m gone. Goodbye.”
Amole is survived by his wife, Patricia Conner Amole; daughters Tustin and Susan; sons Breton and Jonathan; and grandson Jacob.