‘Hurrah for Quillen!’ — Justice Greg Hobbs

Coyote Gulch and Ed Quillen October 20, 2010

Justice Greg Hobbs sent this tribute over in email earlier today:

Hurrah for Quillen!

This incomparable

Curmudgeon Wit gloried in the

great First Amendment.

Reprinted, with permission.

Ed Quillen was a columnist for many years with The Denver Post. They are planning a tribute by publishing excerpts from Ed’s columns from past years. Here is an excerpt from their obituary:

Columnist Ed Quillen, who listed one of his major talents as “complaining” and who used his sharp pen and wit to poke fun at politicians and to chronicle the foibles of life in the Rocky Mountain State, died Sunday of a heart attack at his home in Salida.

Edward Kenneth Quillen III’s widow, Martha, said he was at one of his favorite pastimes — sitting in an easy chair and reading a history book — when his heart stopped. Paramedics were not able to revive him. He was 61 and had just tidied up his office in anticipation of writing his next column. His last column ran in The Denver Post the day he died…

Conservatives called his work everything from outhouse material to slander. Liberals delighted in his skewering of conservative establishment types and his exposing of the inanities that are part and parcel of politics…

“He had no idea how many people liked what he did,” [Martha] said…

His fictional foil in many columns was Ananias Ziegler, “media relations coordinator for the Committee That Really Runs America.” Ziegler would spout whatever canned comments were coming from politicians that week, and Quillen would shut him down with his sharp-eyed observations.

Here’s the Post’s article announcing his death:

“Colorado has lost one of its most thoughtful and colorful characters,” said Curtis Hubbard, editorial page editor. “For decades, Ed’s humor and keen eye shed light for Denver Post readers on topics ranging from our current politics to the state’s rich history. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.”

He was a lifelong Coloradan, historian, folklorist and political activist. His website (www.edquillen.com) contains 2,751 columns, blog postings and essays starting in 1984, when he wrote his first story for The Denver Post in Empire Magazine.

We will be running excerpts from some of his more memorable columns in our Sunday Perspective section.

In a former life I was an IT manager for a large Front Range city that diverts water from both the Fraser River and the Blue River to the Front Range so my ears really perked up when Ed described his GNU/Linux tech setup in a column. Here’s are Ed’s own words describing his website:

Bytehead technical trivia

This site is hosted by Quicksilver Interactive Media, a fine company owned by my son-in-law, Brad Goettemoeller.

The files were converted to HTML with a variety of home-rolled SNOBOL4 programs running under 64-bit SuSE Linux. My thanks to Phil Budne who ported the obscure but simple and potent SNOBOL4 programming language to a variety of platforms, including GNU/Linux. And to my friend and neighbor Mark Emmer who taught me SNOBOL4. He ported it, and its faster cousin SPITBOL, to MS-DOS, and he’s working on a Linux port for SPITBOL.

This site is plain and simple, and should work well with most common browsers. I have tested it with Firefox, Opera, and Lynx. So far as I know, it does not deposit any cookies on your system, nor does it collect any personal information.

Over the years, I’ve used a variety of computers for my daily work. I began with an Osborne I in 1984 that ran CP/M. I progressed through a variety of PCs running MS-DOS, and in 2002 switched to GNU/Linux. In the CP/M and DOS days, I wrote with WordStar; nowadays I use Jstar, a version of JOE (Joe’s Own Editor, and thank you Joseph Allen) configured to work like good old WordStar. My fingers are comfortable with its commands.

In case you’re curious, I generally type on a Logitech Elite keyboard, as it stands up pretty well to office grime and abuse. The same holds for the Logitech M-8T96 mouse beside it.

In June of 2010, I moved into a new computer; as usual, it’s one I built myself. It’s got an AMD 64-bit quad-core CPU and 8 gigabytes of DDR3, so it’s fast. It’s also almost silent, which was a pleasant surprise. I ran into a few assembly problems, and I thank my friend and neighbor Ernie Hatfield for his kind assistance.

The new hardware also included a 500-gb hard disk and a “green” video card that has no fan, along with an upgrade from Open SuSE 10.0 to 11.1. On the road, I use a Lenovo/IBM Thinkpad T43 which can boot either Windows XP Pro or Linux.

Columns were originally to a special Denver Post telephone number always answered by a modem; these days, they just go by email. On rare occasions, I’ve faxed columns to Denver, and once I even hand-delivered one.

It comes hard to praise the phone company, but in all these years, there’s never been a problem in getting my work over the 150 miles from Salida to Denver. That speaks well of the reliability of the service provided by Qwest and its corporate ancestors.

For a year or two, we got broadband internet from the local cable monopoly, Bresnan. The service was fast and fine as we upgraded from dial-up. As Martha put it, the difference was like getting indoor plumbing after using a hand pump in the yard. In both cases, you can get water when you need it, but turning the faucet is so much faster and easier. We switched to Qwest DSL because it was cheaper, but in September of 2011, we switched again and now get internet, telephone and elevision from our cable company, Optimum. So far, it’s been reliable, fast and affordable.

The first article that I saw about Ed’s passing on Monday was written by Michael Roberts for Westword. Here’s an excerpt:

Quillen outlined his history at the Post in this 2006 column. As he wrote:

If it’s true that time flies when you’re having fun, then I’ve sure been enjoying myself for the past 20 years. It was on Jan. 3, 1986 that my first regular column appeared on these pages, and it sure doesn’t seem that a fifth of a century has passed since then.

How did that come about? If you read certain right-thinking blogs, I was a virtuous Colorado boy who made the mistake of walking through the woods one night when I met a fellow who told me I could call him Mr. Scratch. He made me an offer. After I signed in blood, I became part of the Biased Liberal Main Stream Media.

The piece notes that Quillen wrote for a series of newspapers he edited, including the Middle Park Times in Kremmling (1974-77), the Summit County Journal in Breckenridge (1977-78) and the Mountain Mail in Salida (1978-83). At that point, he began freelancing, with the Post publishing a submission from him in 1984. Toward the end of the next year, Quillen proposed a regular schedule to then-editorial page editor Chuck Green, who took him up on the pitch. Beginning in 1988, Quillen’s takes appeared twice weekly in the Post.

Things began to change as times got tougher for print journalism. Quillen’s website points out that “in August of 2011, the Denver Post decided to save money by cutting me from six columns a month to four,” and he definitely didn’t see this change as a relief. He followed this note by making a plea for more freelance work. (He also wrote for the High Country News, among other publications.)

Additionally, Quillen kept up an active Facebook presence, with his most recent post on Saturday discussing the John Edwards mistrial…

…the opinionated Salida wordsmith stood apart from so many of his contemporaries. He was one of a kind, and he’ll be missed.

4 thoughts on “‘Hurrah for Quillen!’ — Justice Greg Hobbs

  1. Thank you for sharing this. Quillen’s passing struck me like none other. His columns were a unique Colorado treasure and his writings wove themselves into our state narrative. Thanks Ed. You will be missed.

  2. Ed encouraged, challenged, and occasionally pushed me to be a decent writer-sort. His mentoring, however subtle, improved me as both a writer and a person. The world was better with him here.
    Thank you for sharing.

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