Remembering Ron HarmeyerOctober 1st, 2012 at 9:27 pm by markmellinger under Politics
Ron Harmeyer was a man whose reputation literally preceded him. In late 1997, I was a 21-year-old working mostly behind the scenes at WISH-TV, our sister station in Indianapolis. The folks there were kind enough to let me do some fill-in reporting and sports anchoring, which had given me enough material to land a job as a reporter at WANE. When one of the photographers at WISH heard I had accepted the job at WANE, he exclaimed (with a grin on his face and a hint of a chuckle in his voice), “Oh, you’ll be working with Ron Harmeyer.” His tone suggested Ron Harmeyer was a WANE mainstay, a good guy, and a bit of a character.
It didn’t take me long to realize he was right on every count. Ron spent 48 years at NewsChannel 15, many of them as our chief photographer. Several of us just called him “Chief.” We lost him Friday to cancer, but he certainly packed a lot into his 68 years. Ron worked with some of the legends of the news business like Fred Friendly and Dan Rather, shot interviews with presidential candidates and at least one sitting vice president, and traveled the country shooting special stories in such far-flung places as Texas, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. He covered virtually every significant news story affecting Fort Wayne over the past four decades, giving viewers at home a close-up view of floods, fires, and furious winter storms. With a resume like that, he was more than worthy of the Indiana Associated Press Hall of Fame induction he received in 2011.
That was Ron’s remarkable career in a nutshell. But what those of us who knew him well will really miss is his one-of-a-kind personality. Here are some of my quick memories of Ron Harmeyer, the person:
-Ron never had stars in his eyes. He was perfectly content to raise his family in his hometown and to work at a job he loved. To my knowledge, Ron never had any ambition to climb the corporate ladder or move to a bigger city. He didn’t have that wanderlust that caused him to wonder if he was missing out on something better. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with wanting to advance a career or experience the adventure of moving to another place, but that just wasn’t in Ron. I admire his contentment.
-Ron truly loved his family. Pictures of his wife and kids always held prominent places at his desk and in his work truck and he never tired of talking about them. He also never failed to ask me how my own family was doing. Both Ron and I met our wives at the station, so we shared that bond. Kathy was the love of his life and, of all the blessings WANE brought Ron, he counted her and their children to be the most significant.
-Ron was proud of Fort Wayne and WANE-TV. It drove him nuts when he suspected other people in our business of viewing Fort Wayne as a second-class city or WANE as a second-class station. He would regularly say, “The bathrooms in Indianapolis smell the same as the bathrooms in Fort Wayne.”
-Ron was predictable. Being the congenial guy that he was, he would always ask where I wanted to eat when we were out on the road. But I knew there were only two answers he was looking for: Bob Evans or Cracker Barrel, even if we were in another state where it might’ve been fun to sample the unique local cuisine. I got a kick out of that and I loved it. Ron was a guy who liked what was familiar and enjoyed getting into a routine, and I’m much the same way. Sipping coffee with Ron and talking about life was always a real highlight of any trip we took.
-Ron was funny. His imitations of people he perceived to be arrogant were classic. His own voice was somewhat Andy Rooney-like and was often imitated, but never completely duplicated. The “short cuts” he took to get back to the station always seemed to take longer than the more direct routes. And I’m not sure he ever actually reached the speed limit when I was in the truck with him.
-Ron was a mentor and encourager. Just ask the legions of news photographers he trained, and each will tell you a story of how Ron showed them the ropes: how to handle yourself at an accident scene, how to shoot a fire, what to do when an interview subject is nervous, and so much more. To us reporters, he constantly stressed the importance of having good contacts and complimented us when a contact we had made led WANE to a scoop. That really got Ron’s juices flowing. He loved the news business and especially loved it when WANE was doing great journalism.
All of this is only scratching the surface, but it gives you some idea of why so many of us loved this man. He was a terrific journalist, photographer, and human being. Even in his later years -when the cancer started to take its toll on his skills- his wit, wisdom, enthusiasm for work and life, and funny quirks endeared him to the newsroom and made him a valuable presence to have around. What a treasure he was, and how we miss him already. Rest in peace, Chief.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: I will be on vacation for the better part of the next couple weeks and will return to blogging when I return to work.*