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Slain newspaper editor hailed as shy but brilliant writer

(The Baltimore Sun via AP, File). FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Baltimore Sun shows Rebecca Smith, a sales assistant at The Capital Gazette. Memorial services will be held Sunday, July 8, 2018, for Smith, one of the employees killed in... (The Baltimore Sun via AP, File). FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Baltimore Sun shows Rebecca Smith, a sales assistant at The Capital Gazette. Memorial services will be held Sunday, July 8, 2018, for Smith, one of the employees killed in...
(The Baltimore Sun via AP, File). FILE - This undated file photo shows Gerald Fischman, Opinion Page Editor and member of Capital Gazette Editorial Board. Memorial services will be held Sunday, July 8, 2018, for Fischman, one of the employees killed in... (The Baltimore Sun via AP, File). FILE - This undated file photo shows Gerald Fischman, Opinion Page Editor and member of Capital Gazette Editorial Board. Memorial services will be held Sunday, July 8, 2018, for Fischman, one of the employees killed in...

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
Associated Press

OLNEY, Md. (AP) - A shy man who expressed his brilliant intellect through his editorials, Gerald Fischman wrote hundreds of thousands of words for the Capital Gazette before a gunman burst into the newsroom and killed him and four other co-workers.

Capital Gazette editor Rick Hutzell wiped away tears Sunday as he read aloud some of those words for more than 150 relatives, friends and co-workers who gathered for Fischman's funeral service and burial at Judean Memorial Gardens cemetery.

Hutzell said his friend and 61-year-old colleague dedicated his life to telling "hard truths," no matter the topic. And the small-town editorial page editor tackled a broad range of subjects, from local politics and civil rights to annual takes on Mother's Day and high school graduations.

"His voice as a writer will be greatly missed. His wisdom cannot be replaced," Hutzell said.

Fischman and four other staffers were killed June 28 when a gunman who had a grudge against the newspaper attacked its offices in Annapolis, authorities said. The suspect, Jarrod Ramos, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

Hundreds of grieving families and colleagues attended memorial services recently for community reporter and editor Wendi Winters and assistant editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen.

Fischman, a 1979 graduate of the University of Maryland's journalism school, had worked at the Capital Gazette for 26 years after 15 years at another Maryland newspaper, the Carroll County Times.

Longtime Capital Gazette sportswriter Bill Wagner said Fischman was a stickler for accuracy who, instead of emailing colleagues, would print out drafts of his editorials and leave copies on colleagues' desks for them to proofread for accuracy.

"His intellect was beyond par," Wagner said. "He was one of the most intelligent people I've encountered in my life."

Fischman also was known for his quirky behavior. Wagner said Fischman used to have a preference for working overnight shifts that started after most of his co-workers had gone home for the night.

"He chose to do it that way," Wagner said.

Rabbi Larry Shor, who led the funeral service, was a classmate of Fischman's from kindergarten through high school. Audience members laughed when Shor recalled how his childhood friend would bring an adult briefcase to elementary school.

"Gerald was, as a child, the same person that he was an adult: quiet and introverted but extraordinarily highly intelligent," he said. "He marched to the beat of his own drummer and was quite happy to do so."

Fischman is survived by his wife, Saran, and stepdaughter, Uka, who read aloud poems that he wrote for her and her mother. Fischman was 50 when he married Saran, who was an opera singer from Mongolia. She said she learned after the shooting that his last purchase was a birthday card for her.

"I never would have thought that he would leave us so sudden and so soon," she said. "We were so happy together."

Glenn Mazis, one of Fischman's cousins, described him as a gifted writer with boundless curiosity, especially about history, politics and music.

"He was fascinated by life," he said. "He met every assignment with enthusiasm and creativity."

On Sunday afternoon, friends and family members gathered to remember Fischman's slain colleague Rebecca Smith.

Dozens attended a visitation on Sunday afternoon to pay their respects, The Baltimore Sun reported . Smith, 34, joined The Capital as an advertising sales assistant in November.

"Smart, beautiful, talented, everything you want in a daughter," Smith's mother, Beth Rittenour, of Warren, Ohio, said through tears after the visitation in Dundalk, where Smith had lived. After she was born, Rittenour recalled, "I showed her to everybody. She was beautiful. My beautiful baby."

Smith acted in community theater during middle school, her cousin, Tammy Kaskel, told the newspaper.

"She had such a great voice, was very supportive, and wanted to see others succeed," Kaskel told The Sun.

Smith would always accompany her fiance, Dewayne Poling Jr., on trips he took to play softball, including visits to North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. Over the weekend, Poling's team held a benefit softball tournament in her memory, the Carroll County Times reported.

Smith graduated from Villa Julie College with a degree in marketing, becoming the first person in the family to go to college, Kaskel said.

"I found her to be a person of tremendous potential, and it is sad that we will never see her live up to that," Marty Padden, the newspaper's advertising director, told The Baltimore Sun. "We're just heartbroken."

A service for sports reporter John McNamara is scheduled for Tuesday on the University of Maryland's campus.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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