John Edward `Red' Sears, 70, sports editor for Evening Sun

March 16, 2006|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN | FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN,SUN REPORTER

John Edward "Red" Sears, former Evening Sun executive sports editor and music fan, died of a stroke Sunday at Good Samaritan Hospital. The longtime Lauraville resident was 70.

Mr. Sears was born and raised in Springfield, Mass., where his father was a detective sergeant with the Police Department. He was a 1954 graduate of Cathedral High School and began his newspaper career the next year working in the circulation department of The Springfield Daily News.

"He was always hanging around the sports department and then a reporter died and another got sick, and they told Red they needed somebody and would show him how to write," said his wife of 45 years, the former Jeanne M. Connelly, who was working in public relations in Springfield for the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., when she became acquainted with her future husband.

Within a month, Mr. Sears was a working reporter and began traveling through western Massachusetts covering high school and college sports. He stayed with the newspaper for a decade and then became public relations director and player personnel director for the Norfolk Neptunes football team in Norfolk, Va.

In 1967, he joined The Evening Sun as a sports reporter and copy editor. He was promoted to assistant sports editor in 1969 and a decade later to executive sports editor. He retired in 1989.

"Red Sears served Evening Sun sports readers well as a reporter and editor, but like many newspaper people who work in sports, he read widely and had interests in fields far from sweaty locker rooms and ball yards," said Ernest F. Imhoff, a retired Sun reporter who was The Evening Sun's last managing editor. "He really was a pleasant guy with a great sense of humor."

Mr. Sears was in direct contrast to the rumpled, boisterous, cigar-smoking sports reporter embodied by Oscar Madison in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple.

He was well-dressed and modest, and if anything, tended toward the quiet side. Yet, for all his presumed seriousness, Mr. Sears was an unflappable presence and a reliable newsroom ally who went about his daily work competently and without a great deal of noisy accompaniment, colleagues said.

"He was very helpful, responsible and enjoyed editing and laying out the paper. He knew sports and was the right guy to be an assistant sports editor. Red was very solid, had perfect judgment and was an asset to the paper," said Bill Tanton, former Evening Sun sports editor who hired Mr. Sears.

"He was a hell of a good guy who cared about the newspaper and worked hard putting out good sections," said Larry Harris, an assistant sports editor who is now retired. "He had lots of energy, wanted to get things right and caught a lot of mistakes. He cared deeply about the product and busted his hump to make it better."

Mike Klingaman, a Sun sports reporter who had been a member of the old evening paper's sports staff, recalled a period when Mr. Sears indulged in a stretching regimen to cure a neck problem.

"He had a contraption that allowed him to hang himself from his office door, and normally would try to do this when no one was around," Mr. Klingaman said. "However, there were times when he'd do it during the day, and we had to be real careful when opening Red's door, otherwise he'd wind up like a pancake."

Mr. Sears was an avid collector and listener of opera and classical and Irish music. He also liked attending concerts of Danny Doyle, the noted Irish balladeer, who became a friend.

He also was an accomplished photographer of outdoor scenes and processed his film in a home darkroom.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Springfield.

Also surviving are three sons, Timothy D. Sears of Canberra, Australia, Stephen L. Sears of Essex and Patrick J. Sears of Baltimore; a daughter, Christine M. Hild of Charlestown, Cecil County; and 14 grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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