Goodbye, Uncle Bill

Got a call from Kate about 4 this afternoon that my Uncle Bill had had a heart attack and died. After the shock, I shifted into news mode and sent this obit info to the Trib and Sun-Times in Chicago:

The Rev. William Hogan

Born Jan. 9, 1927, in Chicago

Died in Chicago Dec. 31, 2003.

Bill suffered a heart attack early this afternoon and died after being taken to St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital on the West Side. Arrangements for a funeral and other services are pending.

Bill was a former Roman Catholic priest (though he would have disputed the adjective “former”), ordained in 1952, whose career was marked from its earliest days by political activism, notably in the civil rights, antiwar, and antinuclear struggles of the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

He was prominent in the campaign to oust Chicago school Superintendent Ben Willis in 1963 (or maybe ’64; there were daily marches against Willis to protest school segregation in the city, and one day the Chicago Daily News landed on our front step with a picture of Bill being carried to a paddy wagon; another notable picture appeared on the front page of Chicago Today around 1970 — he and another protester climbing out of a canoe near the Michigan Avenue Bridge after dumping red dye in the river to protest the Vietnam War; both were arrested for their trouble).

He participated in several of the major civil rights campaigns in the South, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Selma-Montogomery march in 1965. Later, he joined in the local and national campaigns to end the U.S. war in Vietnam, was a leader in Chicago Clergy and Laity Concerned (an antiwar group), and was one of the plaintiffs in a pair of federal lawsuits in 1974 and ’75 that sought to stop alleged Chicago Police Department harassment of political activists (the suits led to a consent decree, still in force, that restrains police surveillance of political groups).

Bill’s work in the streets frequently put him at odds with the leadership of the Chicago archdiocese, and in the 1970s he was suspended for disobeying directives to refrain from political activity. He drove a cab for a time to make ends meet (he turned over most of what he made to peace organizations; Jack Star of the Tribune magazine did a long feature about Bill, with a nice picture of him in his cab, outside Holy Names Cathedral, that was published in 1976 or so). In part because members of his Mundelein seminary class protested, the diocese reinstated him in 1977, the class’s silver anniversary year. Bill wound up leaving the priesthood in the early 1980s, partly over his opposition to the Church’s position on celibacy. After leaving the priesthood, he got married and taught for a time in the Chicago schools; for the past decade or so, he worked as a case officer in the Cook County adult probation department.

His first parish assignment in the early 1950s was at Holy Angels, which was later George Clements’s parish (on Oakwood Boulevard on the South Side). He also served at St. Martin’s and St. George’s parishes (both adjacent to the Dan Ryan — St. Martin’s on 59th Street is still there, though St. George was razed in the early ’70s) and after his suspension and reinstatement at Our Lady of Lourdes on the West Side.

He was the oldest of six children born to Daniel Edward and Anne O’Malley Hogan; his father, a First National Bank employee, died in 1941. His mother, a longtime teacher at Chicago’s Copernicus elementary school, died in 1980.

Bill was the oldest of four Hogan sons to be ordained Roman Catholic priests. His twin brothers Tom and Ed were ordained Carmelites in 1958 (Tom died in 1980; Ed — also known by his order name of Ben Hogan, served at Mount Carmel High School among many other assignments — died in 2001). His brother Dick was ordained in 1965 and served in the Joliet Diocese; he died in 2000.

My mother, Mary Alice Hogan Brekke, was Bill’s only sister. She passed away in August.

He’s survived by his wife, Jackie, his stepson Jeff, and stepdaughter, Katie; by his brother-in-law, Steve Brekke; by me and my brothers, John and Chris, and sister, Ann; and by great-nephews and -nieces in Chicago, Brooklyn, and Berkeley, Calif.

But most of all, he’s remembered by everyone he met in his journeys through the Church and “the Movement” (as he still called it) as a real lion for justice and for people’s rights and dignity; and as one of the world’s great optimists: someone who was sure that the world will come out right if you keep fighting for what you believe is right.

Hope they do a little story on him.

Belatedly: J. Scott Schmidt, 1937-2003

Former managing editor at Chicago Today and the Chicago Tribune, he died in his sleep a couple weeks ago. The obits focus mostly on the work he did in Southern California from 1975 on, when he moved west to take charge of a paper the Trib had just bought (the Green Sheet, which he turned into the Los Angeles Daily News). I remember him for his generosity and willingness to listen to a hot-headed copyboy — me — when he was Today’s managing editor.

The anecdote, in brief: Shortly before the 1972 election, Nixon declared a temporary halt to  bombing above the 20th Parallel in North Vietnam. Chicago Today was an afternoon paper, and our second edition (as I recall it) bannered the news with a headline saying something like, “Nixon halts N. Viet bombing” or something like that. I was convinced the headline was wrong to make such a flat statement; bombing would continue in North Vietnam, though the country’s two largest cities would be off-limits for awhile.

One of my jobs as a copyboy was to distribute copies of the latest edition through the newsroom. When I handed out the edition to the news and copy editors, I brought up the headline, said I thought it was wrong and should be changed. I got a polite hearing, but no one agreed. (Looking back at what an excited, long-haired, cock-sure kid I looked like, and looking at things from the perspective of an editor — me, again — who’s not always immediately receptive to such entreaties from others, it’s not so surprising no one jumped to do anything about the headline.)

The very last stop on my newspaper run, I think, was Scott Schmidt’s office. I generally didn’t say more than “hi” to him when I dropped off the paper, but this time I told him my what I thought about our banner headline. He didn’t brush me off. He asked me to explain.  I did, referring both to the wire-service story we had published and the accompanying map. He asked me a few questions about details, I remember, then got up and walked down the hall to the newsroom. He ordered the headline changed (though I honestly can’t remember whether we replated the front page, which would have been a big deal, or just fixed it in the next edition).

In the vernacular of today, that was huge for me: I was 18, so it was partly personal vindication; but also a demonstration first of patient listening and second that our main job was to get the facts right.

Courtroom Barbie …

… or Heavily Litigated Barbie. Either way, she’s an American legal icon. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has released two decisions on the perfect plastic model woman in the past week.

The first (fair warning: 24-page PDF file) concerns a  dispute between Mattel and a German company that alleged patent infringement decades ago; the Germans lost their case in 1961, but are coming back and looking for royalties now (thanks to Trademark Blog for that item).

The second (43-page PDF file) centers on Mattel’s attempts to stop a Utah photographer from selling his pictures of Barbie in a variety of compromising poses with kitchen appliances. A lower court granted the artist summary judgment — finding that his work did not infringe Mattel’s patents or trademarks. The appeals court affirmed that judgment and said Mattel might owe court costs in the case.

Brief History

Mentioned the “Small Towns” post to my Dad, for whom it was intended. He in turn mentioned driving around the Dakota countryside in the early 1990s looking for the grave of Sitting Bull.  And that jogged my memory about an almanac item for today: The Wounded Knee massacre took place on this date in 1890 (two weeks after Sitting Bull was killed). Our reflections on how short a history we have: Wounded Knee was just 113 years ago, and happened during the lives of people we both know; the blink of an eye, really.

Just the Facts

Guess what trivia freaks, research addicts, editors, writers, diligent students, aimless procrastinators and The Evil Ones have in common? They all find almanacs — yes, almanacs — indispensable to furthering their passions, work and studies — or hastening Death to the Great Satan. The source of this revelation: The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which according to a story in the Washington Post (and other sources), sent out an intelligence bulletin last week warning ” ‘terrorist operatives may rely on almanacs to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning’ because they include detailed information on bridges, tunnels and other U.S. landmarks. Further, the bulletin reportedly asks your local police to be on the alert for suspects carrying almanacs, especially almanacs with notations in them, because such well-used reference works might be a tipoff to something really bad about to happen.

Two Temblors

A week ago (Dec. 22) in Central California shook the hell out of Paso Robles (my friend Pete says his brother, who lives there, told him that just about everything in his house that could have fallen and broken did). But his house itself was fine, and there was little damage, relatively speaking. Overall death toll: 2.

Then you have the event of Friday, Dec. 26, in Bam, Iran. There, just about everything that could have fallen did — walls, roofs, entire buildings. Death toll — what? at least 25,000? A story tonight says 40,000.

Why the difference (and does the answer go any deeper than the obvious difference in building materials, standards, etc.)? Haven’t seen anyone put the two events together yet.

Blog Time

There’s some research out there on blogging activity: How many blogs are out there, how many are abandoned, frequency of updates, etc. But, having dabbled ever so lightly in online diarizing, and having come across some reasonably well informed, well written, and constantly updated blogs — let’s list BoingBoing (maintained by a group of friends), Dan Gillmor’s eJournal, the Volokh Conspiracy, and Bruce Sterling’s Wired blog (modestly titled Beyond the Beyond) for starters — the question I always have is: Where do these people find the time?

For me, it’s a conundrum: Getting my work done in a halfway respectable manner, doing the nonwork stuff I want to do (in random order: cycling, working out, being a halfway attentive husband, father, son, brother, and friend, reading, and watching “24” and “Survivor,” then thinking about and occasionally noodling with “my spare-time literary activities,” which might, by a stretch, be said to include blogging).

I don’t see any research about that. Maybe there’s a story in it.

Especially at This Time of Year

Man sets car on fire on a Bay Area freeway, incinerating his wife’s two kids and critically burning her. Local police chief’s comment, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Certainly it’s a very tragic situation, especially at this time of year.”

Thanks to the magic of a Google news search, we discover that the chief isn’t the only one who’s feeling this way about a Yuletide human torching. Scotland’s Evening Telegraph reports that a 48-year-old man in the town of Kinross set himself on fire. The Telegraph quotes a witness: “It doesn’t bear thinking about, especially at this time of year, the Friday before Christmas.”

That’s actually a nice touch, reminding us just what time of year it is. But wait, here’s more tragedy and extra-heartfelt emotion stirred by the coming of Xmas. In Rhode Island, a trench collapse killed an apprentice plumber on Thursday. His employer — responding to the second such death in less than a year — said: “Our heart goes out to the family, especially at this time of year.”

In Hilton Head, S.C., a few days ago, a high school student was struck by a car and killed. The school district flack had this to say: “It’s a sad day for this family and for the island community, especially at this time of year.” I’ll refrain from comment. Especially at this time of year.

Good Satire, Wasted

A new Internet satire site in Indiana published a funny piece about a mistaken Purdue basketball scholarship. Reporters noticed the story, perhaps when it was posted earlier this week on Then the story showed up, word for word, as a piece of “real” news in the San Diego Union Tribune; an editor or rewrite guy there apparently was fooled and lifted the piece for a column of colorful sports tidbits. Amazing to me, the guy still has a job today. Decent discussion of the whole episode, including a letter attempting to explain what happened and what the paper’s going to do about it going on from the Union Tribune sports editor, in one of the Fark forums.