A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Veteran newsman Kimball Perry dies; former reporter for the Post and the Enquirer was one of a kind

By Joseph Fenton
Special to the NKyTribune

Kimball Perry, an irascible, hard-driving, soft-hearted reporter, died unexpectedly Tuesday and way too early.

Perry

Perry was every editor’s nightmare. He was allergic to having his copy touched, tampering he called it. He was also every editor’s best daydream. He was a hard-working reporter, who liked nothing better than to run a story by you and talk about it.

He first worked for the Cincinnati Post and when that newspaper died, he went to work at the Cincinnati Enquirer, covering government and then courts.

He didn’t abide politicians who weren’t on the up and up or those who cut corners. I often wondered how tight their sphincters got when their secretaries announced, “Kimball Perry on line one.”

Kimball loved Cincinnati almost as much as he loved his daughter Elizabeth. He doted on her, posted her artwork around his desk. Shared photos of her. Took her to things like “Wicked,” not because he had any interest in it, but because she wanted to.

Kimball could often come off as abrasive to co-workers and editors. They didn’t see the heart hiding behind the shirt and tie. He once called out to my wife Eileen, “Hey, Blondie,” he beckoned, calling her over to tell her there was a sheet cake in the conference room for a reporter’s birthday. He did that more than once, never willing to let anyone know he was behind the cake.

When a colleague, Barry Horstman died of a heart attack in the Enquirer newsroom, Kimball paid a bagpiper to play at his funeral.

That was Kimball, the tough guy front, the soft-serve heart he never wanted people to know about.

When the Reds played the Phillies after a long playoff absence, Kimball and I went to the first game at Great American Ballpark. The Reds lost. They were almost no-hit. That was disappointing.

What saved the night was Kimball’s reaction to being at the ballpark for a playoff game. The aw-shucks, I-can’t-believe-it awe in his comments. His wide-eyed gaze at a stadium jammed to the upper-deck rafters. The night was like going with a kid to his first baseball game. At the end of the night, we both thought it was a great night, savored our first playoff game and shrugged off the loss.

Fenton included this childhood photo of Kimball Perry, as he wants to remember him – eyes bright and just a bit of a smirk.

That will be the memory of Kimball I will hang onto, not the times I had to drag him into the conference room at 312 Elm Street, shut the door and tell him, “I going to save you from yourself. Calm down. Take a deep breath.”

Despite his rough edges – and there were a few – Kimball enjoyed a great sense of news and story, a great gift for someone who prowled the corridors of the Hamilton County Court House, a temple of human emotions flowing out of every courtroom.

When GateHouse Media, the subsidiary of a hedge fund that was gobbling up newspapers like a drunk gobbling bar peanuts, bought the Florida Times-Union in October, I called Kimball who was then at the Columbus Dispatch. He tried to assure me it wasn’t the end of the world.

“Joe, let me tell you, we both survived Gannett, you can survive them. They’re not really that bad.”

He was wrong. They quickly laid off 10 people in a newsroom already stripped of people.

I missed working with Kimball because I thoroughly enjoyed our time together, even when he got prickly.

News of his death was like a punch in the face. It came less than 24 hours after news of another friend’s death and learning that a third friend was told by his doctor they were stopping chemo and there really wasn’t anything they could do for him any longer.

Here’s to Kimball Perry, a tough journalist, a terrific dad and a guy with a soft heart.

I’ve attached a photo of Kimball. It’s the way I want to remember him. Eyes bright and just a bit of a smirk.

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6 Comments

  1. Skip Hall says:

    Thank you for sharing, Joseph

  2. Ken Weedman says:

    This is a eulogy, not a report!

    Why did he leave Cincy? Was he still working at the Dispatch at the time of his death? How and why did he die? Why did it take anyone two days to report it?

    Not a good guy and you know it! Why report the facts, Mr. “Journalist?”

    • Kathleen Mastin says:

      Mr. Weedman, Shame on you for your cruel words. I’m his daughter’s aunt. She loves him more than anything in this world. Kimball showered her with love and affection and would have done anything for her. You are not a part of his family and you have no idea what type of man he was outside of work. People with the nasty words and comments are the ones who Kimball had found out were either hiding things or breaking laws. You should pray your family never feels this very real pain his family and friends are feeling at this time.

  3. Christopher Collini says:

    Thank you for a wonderful eulogy on Kimball. A great reporter and writer and nice guy.

  4. Eric says:

    Mr Weedman, you are a jerk, plain and simple. I would only hope that you never have to feel the pain that my family and are going through. Your are thoughtless and your words are hurtful. I pray for you and your family and maybe, just maybe, one day you’ll understand compassion. Other than that I suggest your filth and sharp tongue be held in check.
    R/
    Kimball’s younger brother!

  5. GV says:

    Mr. Weedman…we’re you never taught if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all!

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