William F. Morem, 63, a former longtime reporter and editor at The Cambrian and The Tribune, was found dead in his Los Osos home Monday, Sept. 14.
The cause of death was unknown Monday. The San Luis Obispo County Coroner’s Office was reviewing the case to determine whether it would conduct an autopsy, according to San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla.
Morem was found inside his home by sheriff’s officials after they received notification from the U.S. Postal Service that mail was piling up, asking whether deputies could check on his welfare, Cipolla said.
Morem retired from the Tribune two years ago.
During his 26-year career as a journalist in San Luis Obispo County, he worked as editor of The Cambrian as well as The Sun Bulletin in Morro Bay; the latter newspaper ceased publication in 2009. Morem also served as The Tribune’s opinion editor for several years before becoming a columnist, copy editor and reporter.
“Bill touched thousands with his work — pursuing countless stories that made a difference in the communities he served,” said Executive Editor Sandra Duerr, adding that Morem was especially passionate about advocating for the homeless and the downtrodden.
Morem embraced Cambria with love and warmth, and said in recent years that he looked forward to his “fill-in” duties whenever an editor of The Cambrian took time off.
When Staff Writer Kathe Tanner interviewed him in August, prior to the paper’s move to a new office space, Morem recalled his fondest memories of his time at The Cambrian.
He first joined the staff in 1968, during Ralph “Scoop” Morgan’s ownership of the publication, left the area for a while after Morgan’s widow sold the newspaper in 1981, then returned as editor in the 1990s, moving to The Tribune in about 2000.
Morem said, “I remember dealing with people who would drop into the office. They’d sort of just lean up on a desk and tell me their life stories. … I never ever said, ‘You can’t sit on the corner of that desk.’ I figured that was what they’d earned the right to do. Dane Burwell would come in and bend my ear for an hour and a half. I’d sit there and calmly listen to it all.”
Morem listened because he enjoyed doing so, and he was good at it.
He credited Morgan for teaching him ways to handle the situation “when people would come in, throwing their arms up and raising hell. He’d say, ‘Oh, well, goodness. Isn’t that interesting!’ … I was blessed to have had him as a mentor, and then blessed to live and work in a place like The Cambrian, blessed to be able to look upon the human race in a way that was compassionate.”
Morem said, “I only had good things happen to me at The Cambrian. Never any strife, never any hard-bitten things that came out, even though Cambria has a reputation for being able to do that. … I enjoyed every day that I went to work there, and every day that I dealt with individuals. I thought I was given a gift of interaction with a community that had very, very fine qualities … Basically, I got the best of all possible places be.”
When Morem retired, Tribune Opinion Editor Stephanie Finucane wrote that it was his 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,” Finucane wrote.
Shirley Bianchi of Cambria, a former San Luis Obispo County supervisor and former county Planning Commission member, recalled Morem as a “really good journalist who tried very, very hard to define what the real story was. … I think he understood that oftentimes there are not two equal sides to a story, that one side of a story would have more validity and facts to support it than the other side.’’
Bianchi, who described herself as the “original nonpolitically correct candidate,” also recalled Morem’s quick wit.
Once, she said, he told her, “ ‘You know, sometimes you just say things and it’s like biting on aluminum foil — and it makes your teeth hurt.’ I never forgot that.”
Morem’s survivors include his former wife, Sharon Morem, daughter Caitlin and her fiancé Kenny Vaughan, grandson Madden Vaughan (whom his grandfather nicknamed “Little Man” or “The Crouton”), brother Jim Morem of Wisconsin and many relatives in the Midwest.
Services are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Morem’s memory to the Prado Day Center and Woods Humane Society.