Remembering Pomeroy: 'A Night in Superior'
Written in 1981 after Dick Pomeroy's retirement I may never get a chance to tell this story again, and I've wanted to for a long time, so I'd better seize the moment. But don't look for laughs here today. It involves a colleague of mine who left ...
Written in 1981 after Dick Pomeroy's retirement
I may never get a chance to tell this story again, and I've wanted to for a long time, so I'd better seize the moment. But don't look for laughs here today.
It involves a colleague of mine who left the paper last week after close to 40 years of service in the news department. He's the only long-standing newsman I've know here who went all the way as a reporter -- never opting for an editor's desk job.
His name is Dick Pomeroy, and for most of his long career he covered Superior for the paper -- and covered it well. He went over there in the late 1940s on "temporary assignment" and he was still at it when he resigned last week. In those 30-plus years, Dick covered virtually every big story that broke in Superior and a lot of little ones, too.
But one of the strangest in his career, I'm sure he'd admit, also involved me, and I can remember it as though it were yesterday. It seems the FBI had nabbed a spy in California for selling classified information to the Russians. As the AP wires spit out the story, it was reported that the spy had spent his youth in Superior.
When something like that happens, the hometown newspaper has to localize it. Pomeroy was assigned to track down the local angle, and the city editor sent me along to help. That's about all I was good for then. It was early in my reporting career and it was Pomeroy's town.
Pomeroy had already started working on the story before I arrived and found nothing. He'd checked the high school, but there was no record of the man there. We went to the public library together to flip through old high school yearbooks but found nothing.
We were stumped to the point of believing the FBI had it wrong.
Finally -- and I don't remember how -- we got a break. The spy had been known by a different name in Superior. That was all Pomeroy needed. Old city directories were hauled out, the name and neighborhood tracked down. Off we went to the block where the suspect had lived, pounding on doors.
After several attempts we came to a house where somebody remembered. A woman, sloppily dressed and well on her way to inebriation, could recall the kid. "Don't know where he is now though. What d'ya wanna know for?"
"Does he have any relatives in Superior?" Pomeroy asked.
"Sure, his mother works over at the ..." she named a small cafe. We bolted from the neighbor's house and headed for the cafe, which, when we arrived looked like it was closed. But we could see an elderly woman inside mopping the floor. We went around back and tried the door, found it open and let ourselves in, a couple of nosey reporters snooping in people's private lives.
"Excuse me, ma'am, but does a Mrs. Smith [obviously not the name] work here?" Pomeroy asked.
The woman stopped mopping and gazed at us. "I'm Mrs. Smith," she said.
"Mother of John Smith?" Pomeroy asked.
"Yes. What's the matter? Is something wrong? Has he been hurt?"
Pomeroy and I looked at each other, not quite knowing what to do next. The woman had not been informed that her son had been arrested on a charge of treason. I felt like running. Pomeroy held his ground and moved closer to the woman, probably worried she might faint.
"Mrs. Smith," he said, "I hate to tell you this, but your son has been arrested by the FBI on spy charges."
The woman broke into sobs, her head bowed over her mop and pail. I stood by the door looking for the first opportunity to leave, to get away from such misery and heartache.
But Pomeroy, rough hewn, six-feet something, a good 250 pounds, put his thick arm around the grieving woman's shoulder and tried to comfort her as best he could, the heck with the story.
I'm going to miss Pomeroy around here. I learned a lot from him over the years, but never more than on that night when getting the story -- bad as we wanted it -- become secondary to the feelings of the people involved.
Of course, he got the story, too. Pomeroy always got the story.