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Dale Huffman Memorial Page

Obituary: Dayton Daily News columnist Dale Huffman

By Sharahn D. Boykin and Mark Fisher - Staff Writers

Dale Huffman, whose columns and stories forged an enduring bond with Dayton Daily News readers during a career that spanned 45 years, died. He was 79.

Mr. Huffman died Saturday evening at Kettering Medical Center after battling kidney cancer and other ailments.

Funeral service arrangements had not been finalized Sunday.

Mr. Huffman covered several high-profile stories as a reporter in the late 1960s and early ’70s, but it was his work as a metro columnist in the latter two-thirds of his career that captured the loyalty of a community and prompted a remarkable level of reader devotion. He detailed the good deeds of friends and strangers and found inspirational moments in everyday life, describing them in simple, elegant words. And he made hundreds of personal appearances throughout the region, emceeing community events and assisting charitable organizations.

Link to Dayton Daily News Dale Huffman Tribute and Columns

In 1993, President George H.W. Bush named Mr. Huffman the nation’s 1,001st “Point of Light” for his recurring series

that followed 100 kindergarten students to their high school graduation in 2000.

Mr. Huffman also was an iron man of newspaper columnists, accepting a suggestion from an editor in 1999 to begin writing a column a day, and then doing exactly that for more than 3,000 consecutive columns spanning more than eight years.

“Dale Huffman had a personal relationship with readers because he wrote about them and their concerns, accomplishments and their life-changing moments,” said Kevin Riley, editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who worked at the Dayton Daily News in multiple capacities for 25 years. Riley was serving as the newspaper’s top editor in early 2008 when Mr. Huffman’s streak of daily columns ended.

“He’d been hospitalized with a serious illness,” Riley said. “When I talked to him, his main concern was that he’d disappointed readers and his colleagues at the newspaper for letting his column streak come to an end. He seemed unconcerned about his health.”

His former editor, Arundi Venkayya, said Mr. Huffman loved the Dayton region community and sharing stories.

“Throughout his career, he was able to combine these loves in his column,” she said. “ The region is better for having him and I will miss his spirit.”

Born in 1936, Mr. Huffman grew up in an orphanage in Springfield after his family fell apart. He later reconciled and reunited with his mother, Kathryn, who became a central figure in many of his columns. A tribute to his mother that was published in 1983 captured multiple awards and recognition, and served as a catalyst for the newspaper’s long-running “Mother of the Year” award.

Wright State University, which is the repository and caretaker of Dayton Daily News archives, designated Mr. Huffman a “Living Legend” in 2014.

“Dale was an easy choice to honor this year as our Living Legend,” said Dawne Dewey, head of the WSU Special Collections and Archives and director of Wright State’s Public History Program.

In a 1993 column marking his 25th anniversary at the newspaper, Huffman wrote, “I hope the things I have done and the stories I have written have been informative, perhaps entertaining, and in some cases caused a smile or a tear. Occasionally I have lent a helping hand to someone in need, and that has been the best part of it all.”

Sue Wolff, a close family friend of Huffman who referred to him as “Uncle Dale” for most of her life, said he was always around, especially during the holidays.

“He was always there to have a good time with us,” she said. “He was always there to help if needed. He was supportive of us.”

Some of Wolff’s favorite memories of Huffman are related to gag gifts and spending time with him during the holidays. Silly presents were always part of the holiday tradition and included Christmas themed suspenders or a bow tie, she said.

Every time Huffman came over to home, no matter whether it was winter or summer, he would play “Silent Night” on the piano, Wolff said.

Wolff also said Mr. Huffman was responsible for starting a new tradition in their family. One year for Christmas, he gave her mother a beautifully wrapped gift. When she opened the it, she found a broken and cracked wooden salt and pepper shakers.

“He had found it laying on top of the trash,” she said. “The next Christmas, he got it back from my mom,” she said. “Up until last Christmas, that has been passed around our family. So that’s been 50 years.”

Dayton Daily News, Monday, July 27, 2015