Remembering Bill Stall
The sad word just came across that Bill Stall, a fellow editorial writer here at the Times until a few years ago, died today of emphysema.
What you'll probably see first in obituaries about Bill is that he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing, and he did indeed produce an outstanding series of pieces in 2004 that analyzed with extraordinary clarity and conciseness the shenanigans and dysfunctions of state government, and offered common-sense remedies.
But I didn't mention that first, because even his depth of knowledge about important matters, and ability to put that into prize-winning prose, isn't what I remember most about him. Bill was at retirement age when I first joined the department; he already was frequently unwell from emphysema. But nothing slowed his unflagging devotion to his job and his commitment to bringing critical analysis of major issues to readers. He was a plain-spoken guy, but a true gentleman who was unfailingly helpful to me as a beginner in the department, generous with ideas and sources. And when my mother died of Alzheimer's and I had to take off some time, Bill stepped up to take on the editorial I was working on so that it wouldn't be abandoned.
Bill and I exchanged a few emails last week when he was in hospice care. He expressed avid concern about Tuesday's election, about the environment, which was always a great interest of his (He was determined as an editorial writer to keep the number of snowmobiles in Yellowstone from escalating), and about the future of newspapers. Even the nearness of death couldn't quell the intensity of his interest in the affairs of the world at large.
Photo by Gary Friedman/LA Times