Gary Blonston, who graciously guided Knight Ridder's Washington bureau until his death from cancer April 4, "was a quiet man in a loud business. I think that really captures him," says friend and colleague Kathleen Carroll.
Blonston spent nearly 36 of his 56 years with Knight Ridder--at the Miami Herald, Detroit Free Press, San Jose Mercury News and the Washington bureau--working as a reporter, editor, writing coach and leader. "I think he was wonderful at all of it, but he'll always be remembered as an incredible writer," says Clark Hoyt, Knight Ridder's recently named Washington editor and Blonston's friend of 31 years.
Blonston, the lead writer on two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams, joined the Detroit Free Press in 1966, Hoyt in '68. "There were a lot of remarkable reporters--journalists, period--in the Free Press of those days, and Gary was right at the top of the class," says Hoyt. "I was the reporter, and he was the star reporter."
He joined the Washington bureau in 1989 and became its chief in '95. "He was a very good listener," says Carroll, the bureau's new chief. During the disorganized "notebook dump that reporters do," he'd cogitate and then provide "the bright light of inquiry that was going to make the story different or better or more sophisticated. Sharper."
Hoyt describes Blonston as shy but dashing. He wore a patch over his left eye after cancer robbed him of its vision in 1983. In 1997, the cancer returned and spread. Blonston continued working, despite debilitating chemotherapy treatments, until weeks before his death. He is survived by his wife, Susan Goldberg, a deputy managing editor at USA Today, and two children from an earlier marriage.