It’s often said that a good newspaper afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.
For more than 30 years, former Tribune writer/editor Bill Morem, who recently retired, excelled at both, whether he was reporting on a City Council meeting or gently prodding us to open our hearts — and our wallets — to help the homeless, the hungry, or those who were just down on their luck.
Over his long career, Morem, who will soon be 62, held just about every job there is in journalism: reporter, copy editor, opinion editor, managing editor, columnist.
Those of us lucky enough to work alongside him — whether at The Cambrian, Morro Bay Sun-Bulletin, or The Tribune — have plenty to add to that list: adventurer; sage; historian; raconteur; connoisseur of vending machine snacks; Grandpa Simpson impersonator; self-described Luddite; free spirit; friend; and the only person in the newsroom — maybe in all of SLO — who can wear a beret with panache.
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As a writer, there was no subject Bill didn’t tackle: births and deaths, heinous crimes and acts of compassion, the absurd and the heartbreaking. And he did it all with style.
Whether writing about his grandson “Tiny Man” or about a walk on the beach with his pet pug, Bill’s love of humanity illuminated his writing, and his way with words earned him fans for life.
Consider this: “Norman’s a squirt of a pooch. Long of body and standing no taller than shin-high, his genetics may include dachshund, terrier and Chihuahua.”
And this: “Ross Sears was what one would call a trim tab in life — a compact dynamo that moved and stabilized larger forces around him until his untimely death last spring. Our paths first crossed at San Luis Obispo Junior High, where our lockers were within spittin’ distance of each other. At the time, Ross was a little on the short side (as was I), and his infectious laugh and booming voice clinched the deal for me as friends.”
It was Bill’s gift for telling the story of the underdog — be it a homeless family or a veteran dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder — that readers responded to most.
It’s impossible to say how many thousands of dollars Bill helped raise for worthy causes or how many people were inspired to lend a hand or give a hug to someone in need after reading one of his columns.
We’ll let this comment from the subject of one of Bill’s recent columns — a disabled woman who faced losing her driver’s license because she had neglected to pay a 19-year-old traffic ticket — speak to his ability to touch people’s lives.
“I reached out to Tribune writer Bill Morem, who took an interest in my story and showed a genuine concern,” she wrote. “He told me to ‘never lose faith, there are angels out there!’ ”
There were, by the way, nearly two dozen offers of assistance from “angels” in the community, and the woman’s fine ended up being paid in full.
Now that’s vintage Morem.
We wish you the best, Bill. And don’t you — or Grandpa Simpson — be a stranger.