January 31st, 2013
Adele Hall

The news that revered civic leader Adele Hall had passed away stunned the Kansas City community this week.

Known as the “First Lady of Kansas City,” she was much more than just the spouse of Hallmark Cards’ Chairman Donald Hall.

Anyone who ever dealt with her (including this writer) soon realized she was not someone who just lent her name to causes.  She jumped into them with both feet and made real, positive changes in the community.

Jim Fitzpatrick, who spent nearly 37 years at the Kansas City Star and a reporter/editor until he retired in 2006, has now revealed the fascinating back-story on his jimmycsays blog of how the McClatchy-owned paper rushed to put together the front-page article on Hall’s death.

When the very thorough story appeared in the Star on Monday it had this unique byline: “Laura Rollins Hockaday, Lisa Gutierrez, Lee Hill Kavanaugh and Steve Paul contributed to this article.”

Multiple bylines are not necessarily unusual, but the one highlighting “Laura Rollins Hockaday” first was unique in that the Star’s renowned society editor had retired 13 years ago after 38 years with the paper.

Star Editor Darryl Levings told Fitzpatrick that Hockaday had prepared a two-page obituary on Adele Hall before she retired (a common media practice for high-profile people) that provided the blueprint for the entire story.  She also provided important contacts for the other Star reporters to interview for the story.

Ironically, Hockaday didn’t write a word about Hall’s passing, but was given first by-line credit on the story.

“So, why did Levings decide to put Hockaday’s name before the names of the three full-time reporters who were included in the credit box?” asked Fitzpatrick.

“I wanted to honor her earlier work,” Levings said.

Fitzpatrick’s summary hit the nail on the head:

“My take on this is that there is no substitute for institutional knowledge on stories involving notable people and major developments with links to the past. Calling Laura was a brilliant, if logical, thing to do. She had what The Star needed — longstanding civic, social and personal connections to Adele.

“Bravo, then, Laura; you deserve a lot of credit.

“And bravo, Kansas City Star; you gave a great lady a thorough and well-written news obituary.”


7 Responses

  1. laura hockaday says:

    Many thanks and I certainly appreciate Jim’s blog, too. But, as I have tried to explain to several people, all the credit for the superb article on Adele Hall in Tuesday’s Kansas City Star, executed under a very trying deadline, goes to outstanding reporters Lisa Gutierrez, Lee Hill Kavanaugh and Steve Paul and to Darryl Levings, the fine editor who put it all together.

    I am very proud to call them former Star colleagues and I am in awe of what they did in such little time. The Star was not informed of Adele’s tragic passing until about 4:30 p.m. Monday. It took teamwork and hard work to put the story together quickly, while doing justice to a great lady and humanitarian. They did it.

    • JohnLandsberg says:

      Laura, I don’t care what you say, in my book you will always get most of the credit. You are a classy lady and an asset at the Star for years. Hope all is well.

  2. Rick Nichols says:

    John, I’m so glad that you were willing to take Jim’s blog and further circulate it via yours. And, yes, Laura is truly one of a kind and something of an institution in her own right. She deserves every bit of credit The Star gave her the other day.

  3. laura hockaday says:

    Thank you, John and Rick, but the Star reporters, Lisa, Lee and Steve, and their editor, Darryl Levings, were the real pros on the fine tribute to Adele Hall, pulled together in record time.

  4. laura hockaday says:

    Am grateful, John.
    All best

  5. Bill McDonald says:

    Dear John:

    Was so glad to not only see you recognize Laura for her contributions to the Adele Hall piece, but stick to your guns once she disclaimed. (I probably don’t have to tell you that that’s her M.O., but I guess that I just did.)

    Thirteen years ago today, come-to-think-of-it, I moved into her building here. On one of my runs during the move, the elevator opened, and there she was.

    I did a double-take, certain that I knew her, though I didn’t. And then, it came to me:

    “You’re Laura Hockaday. Aren’t you?”


    In the ensuing years, we’ve broken a whole bunch of bread together and come to be good friends, probing everything from Kansas City history to politics to name-one.

    Her numerous civic awards are a matter of record — but during this time, I’ve been uniquely positioned to observe her in action on a virtually daily basis — you know, the stuff that doesn’t make print.

    To wit:

    For decades, she’s hosted an annual reunion of TIMES/STAR veterans each October. Some sixty-or-so fly in for it from all over the country. Their collegiality and obvious affection for one another is reminiscient of the reunions we read about re/the 82nd or 101st airborne units dropped into Normandy.

    To this day, she meets on a weekly basis with six to ten former colleagues at a local restaurant.

    She also has to be one of the best hires THE STAR ever made, based on the fact that she remains a pro-active resource for any reporter in need of some help or an historical perspective on something. (I hasten to add here that this statement is the product of my personal observation rather than her telling me about it!)

    She’s a passionately loyal friend-on-call to anyone needing her, and on a 24/7 basis at that. Need a ride? Need a sounding board? Need some input? Call Laura.

    I’ve also personally witnessed her countless acts of random kindness to people in the building in dire need of help. Sometimes, it’s only ten bucks, but one such effort involved several thousand dollars and approximately half her time for two months toward getting a failing friend installed in a local nursing home.

    She’s also occasionally been “stung” by opportunists — but been magnanimous in accepting the disappointment. Laura has never studied life in her rear-view mirror.

    To this day, I believe her (GULP!) to be a kind of walking saint, and told her so.

    Predictably, she disclaims.

    No kidding. She’s indeed an extraordinary lady.

    Most Sincerely,

    Bill McDonald

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