Family and colleagues remember the five people killed in a Maryland newspaper shoot as dedicated members of the community. The employees killed Thursday in the Annapolis paper were Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, is charged with five murders in one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in AMERICAN history.
Former colleagues of Gerald Fischman, the editorial page editor of the Capital Gazette, frankly described the veteran journalist as reserved, precise and very talented.
“Gerald was the most brilliant editorial writer I have ever known,” said Dan Casey, a former reporter at the paper who is now a columnist at The Roanoke Times.
Fischman, who won the annual awards for editorial writing without a hitch, was socially awkward, but in a “heart-warming” way, Casey said.
Steve Gunn, a former editor of the newspaper, said Fischman was “the master of the AP-style”, who “made sure everything was exactly right.”
“He was famous for working long days and very precise in his language and always ensure that the editorial page reflects the heart of the newspaper,” Gunn said.
Fischman had worked on the paper since 1992.
Politicians who encountered Fischman told the Baltimore Sun he was impressive and able to put them on their guard.
“When I sat for my approval interviews in 2010, he made it clear to me was to be earned, and in no way guaranteed” former two-term Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit told the newspaper. “He asked difficult questions and exposed every weakness in my legislation. He treated the council of races as they were in presidential races.”
Assistant editor-in-chief Rob Hiaasen’s family is “devastated” by his death, said his brother, the writer Carl Hiaasen.
In a brief phone conversation with The Associated Press, prolific writer, and an old Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen said his family is “devastated beyond words” by the senseless killing of his brother, who was 59.
“He was the most remarkable person. As gifted and talented and committed to journalism,” he said, his voice choked with emotion.
Said he was also plagued with sadness to speak further, Hiaasen referred an AP reporter to something he had just posted on his Facebook page, in which Rob as one of the most gentle and funny people I’ve ever known.”
Gunn, the former Capital Gazette editor, said Rob Hiaasen, was a “gifted editor who had a aura of an artist around him, that people want to make of journalism is a wonderful profession.”
A fellow-journalist Jan Winburn, who had worked with Hiaasen for a decade, said he had a true passion for the profession. “His heart was always in it — every story, every line and every word,” she wrote on his Facebook page.
The nickname “Big Rob” because of his height and the spirit, he was known for his generosity and mentoring relationship with the younger journalists.
Hiaasen had just celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary with his wife, Mary, whose birthday was Thursday, the day of the deadly attack.
John McNamara was a longtime employee of the newspaper, who had worked as a sports writer and editor and more recently moved to a weekly publication, the Bowie Blade-News, colleague David Broughton said.
Broughton, the newspaper sports editor, said that he had worked with McNamara since 1994 and sat in a neighboring cell.
“I could hear his conversations (in the newspaper),” said Broughton. “He was just a very thoughtful guy and a very intellectual man. He could have an intelligent conversation about anything, whether it’s politics or travel or English literature.”
The paper in the newsroom was full of a lot of the “misfits in one way or another,” but McNamara does not fall into that category, Casey said. Instead, he was personal, approachable, nice guy with an ‘encyclopedic knowledge’ of sport and music.
McNamara was an avid basketball player with a self-deprecating sense of humor and roaring laughter, who was married to his college sweetheart, according to Broughton.
“He has often said that marrying her was his biggest achievement,” Broughton said.
Rebecca Smith, a recently hired sales assistant at the Capital Gazette, was a caring, cheerful person who adored her fiancé and his young daughter, girlfriend, Carolyn Dedmon said.
Smith’s fiancée has recently joined a softball team, Dedmon’s husband coaches, and they quickly became part of the softball family, Dedmon said.
Smith called himself a “bonus mom” to her fiancé, daughter, and held him to her softball games and game nights at home, Dedmon said.
“Everything was always about Rileigh and make her happy and spending as much time as possible with her,” she said.
Smith’s boss, the Capital Gazette advertising director Marty Toads, described her as a thoughtful person who made sure that the sales office is run smoothly.
“She was kind and considerate and willing to help when needed. They seemed to like to work in the media,” the Toads told The Sun .
Dedmon said Smith was dealing with severe endometriosis, but never let it be for her down.
“She always went to work, did what they had to do. She was never sad,” Dedmon said.
Special publications editor Wendi Winters ‘ the heart of the newspaper,” Gunn said.
Winters was passionate about serving the community and was a role model for younger journalists, he recalled.
“She was in many ways the best part of the newspaper that she cared so much about the city,” he said.
The 65-year-old moved to Maryland about 20 years ago, after a career in the fashion and public relations in New York.
She had a flair for writing features and let her quirky and fun” personality shine through in her work, according to Susan O’brien, spokeswoman for the city of Annapolis.
“She always seemed to smile. She was just a very pleasant person. It is incredible to think that they are no longer here,” O’brien said.
Winters was the mother of four children, and young adults. The oldest, 29-year-old Winters Geimer, her mother said on the personality matched her red hair and 6-foot.
“She was larger than life,” said Geimer Friday after a vigil at her mother’s Annapolis church. “She was a hard person to miss.”
Geimer said her mother worked as a publicist in New York before you freelance in the Annapolis newspaper almost 20 years ago. She had been a stay-at-home mother who loved making home-made clothes and Halloween costumes for her children.
“My mother loved to write and create,” she said. “She was a versatile artist.”
Winters was a church member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, where dozens of mourners gathered Friday to mourn and pay tribute to her and her colleagues killed.
A number of church members laughed through my tears as she shared stories about her. Dr. L. E. Gomez said Winters was, like him, a New York native and had a sarcastic, quirky, irreverent way. He loved their frequent discussions about the local politics, even though they often disagreed.
“Wendi, I felt at home,” he said. “It didn’t matter what we were talking about. It was the way they communicated with people.”
The AP News Research Center in New York and AP writers Sarah Rankin, and Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia, and Michael Kunzelman in Annapolis contributed to this report.