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A local legacy: Longtime Daily Globe editor Ray Crippen remembered

WORTHINGTON -- Ray Crippen was a scholar and archivist of local history, but he also left his own indelible mark on the community that he loved so well.Crippen, 85, the former editor of the Daily Globe and longtime historical columnist for the ne...

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Ray Crippen is shown in a photo taken in 1966 during Robert Kennedy’s visit to Worthington’s King Turkey Day celebration. (Submitted photo)

WORTHINGTON - Ray Crippen was a scholar and archivist of local history, but he also left his own indelible mark on the community that he loved so well.
Crippen, 85, the former editor of the Daily Globe and longtime historical columnist for the newspaper, died Sunday at his home, where he had been under hospice care for a short time.
Growing up in Worthington, the son of Raymond Sr. and Mathilda Crippen, his very first job was with the Daily Globe - a paperboy during the years of World War II. Perhaps that early experience left its mark, as after a stint at the local junior college Crippen attended the University of Minnesota, majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in history while also working as a reporter for the Minnesota Daily. He continued his journalistic efforts during his Korean War military service, stationed in Japan and writing for Stars and Stripes from 1952 to 1954.
Upon his return home, Crippen became employed at the Daily Globe in 1954, working in various departments including advertising, circulation and composition before landing in the newsroom, where he eventually became city editor and managing editor.
“We are extremely saddened to have lost a member of our Daily Globe family.” said current Daily Globe publisher Joni Harms. “Ray was always the ultimate professional and a pillar of the community - strong in his convictions, with a warm gentle smile. Some of us had the privilege of working with him, and feel honored to have done so and proud to have called him our friend. He will truly be missed.”
Under the ownership of the Vance family and with Crippen at the helm of the newsroom, the Daily Globe grew to be the most prominent daily newspaper in the region, and Crippen fostered the talents of many writers and photographers during his 35 years at the newspaper.
“I do know it was a deep and life-changing experience to have been in that newsroom family for several years,” said renowned photographer Jim Brandenburg, who went on to work for National Geographic. “I have often said they were the best years of my life. I have been incredibly blessed with a career I could never have imagined. I do know not only in my heart but in my bones that Ray and the Globe family shaped something inside my young naive being to go out into a bigger world to thrive and survive. I will never forget, not only the professional day-to-day work with Ray’s gifts, but then the casual moments of sharing with him the life we lived on the prairie. He was at the same time a definition of powerful dignity and then with a splendid dose of surprising if not silly and joyous subtle humor to put it all in perfect perspective. A rare man, a rare experience.”
David Hawley, who got his start as a reporter at the Daily Globe in the early 1970s, recalled Crippen’s devotion to both the newspaper and the community.
“In those days, he was the news editor in the morning and wrote an editorial in the afternoon,” Hawley remembered. “At all hours of the day and night, he was in his office. He was totally devoted to the newspaper and to his parents and his church. … He was really an inspiration to me. He led by inspiration and enthusiasm, and he was always interested in what you did. He led, too, by example. He was such a decent sort of polite person, even to people who were pretty impolite.”
Hawley recalled often taking walks with Crippen around Worthington.
“We would walk around and discuss the world’s problems,” Hawley said. “Ray believed that what the Globe said mattered, not just to our readers, but to the world - that we had a duty to comment on the world, that it was important.”
One of Crippen’s ways of commenting was through a pithy daily feature called Pea Pods - a short daily joke or observation that ran in the Daily Globe for many years.
Crippen garnered the respect of his colleagues in the newspaper business as well as at competing media outlets.
“His word was his bond,” said Larry Rogers, who came to work at the local radio station in 1976. “He was dedicated to what he did as a profession, and if Ray Crippen agreed with you or was on your side in an issue, you couldn’t have a better ally walking step by step with you.
“... I don’t think people realize how well known Ray Crippen was in state and national politics,” Rogers continued, acknowledging that Crippen was a devoted Democrat. “Anyone running for political office or holding political office knew a stop at Ray Crippen’s desk was mandatory. He’d even welcome the Republicans with a firm handshake - the Democrats he gave coffee to, but the Republicans he still welcomed.” 
Among his political acquaintances was Walter Mondale, longtime senator representing Minnesota and the 42nd vice president of the United States, who once offered Crippen a job on his Senate staff.|
“He was my very dear old pal,” said Mondale during a brief phone interview Monday morning, recalling the days of the Daily Globe with Crippen as its editor as “the golden era” of the newspaper. “The Worthington community was clearly one of the hot communities in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. I always enjoyed going there, and I always enjoyed reading the newspaper, and Ray gets a lot of credit for that. … Ray was sort of my contact down there. If I wanted to know what was going on in that part of the state, I would check in with Ray. I’m really glad that I knew him. He was a special guy.”
After leaving the Daily Globe in October 1989, Ray turned his focus to local history, authoring several books. In the latter 1990s, he returned to the pages of the Daily Globe, penning a popular column that focused on tales of area history. The column had a conversational tone.\
“When I learned of Ray’s death, I went online and caught up on his Saturday Daily Globe columns,” said former reporter Jill Callison, who most recently worked for the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls. “Reading those was just like sitting down and having a conversation with him, and I will miss those talks, both in person and in writing.
“Ray was an amazing newspaperman but also an incredible person. I learned so much from him, not just about journalism and ethics but about life.” added Callison. “He also had the best sense of humor, and sometimes I took him seriously when I should have suspected something was up. I remember a story he wrote about pocket pancakes. He said during the Depression, when his family would travel to see relatives at holiday time, they would take pancakes along with them and eat them before they arrived to curb their appetite. I never knew whether to believe him or not. It sounded plausible. It also sounded like something Ray was capable of making up.”
Crippen’s ability to recall tidbits of local history was of great benefit to the local historical society, particularly in recent projects documenting the city’s neighborhood grocery stores and several other topics.\
“I went over to pick his brain about the grocery stores, because for some we had run into dead ends,” recounted Jerry Fiola, a volunteer with the Nobles County Historical Society. “He was able to tell me about these people’s ‘kids’ - now 75 and 80 years old - so I could track down the children of these people who ran the stores. Every time I ran into a dead end, I would come back and visit with Ray, and he’d wrack his brain, give me another lead, and we’d track down a number of things we hadn’t been able to track down before.”
Crippen instigated several historical projects himself, including an exhibit featuring early Nobles County photographers that was displayed at the Worthington Events Center.
“He recently had completed a book on the Worthington depot, and since he wasn’t able to publish it himself, had signed the rights of it over to the Nobles County Historical Society to allow us to publish that,” Fiola noted. “We hope to do that this coming year.”
Fiola and many others lament the historic tales that will now be lost with Crippen’s passing.
“We’re fortunate that Ray did so many columns and books - little booklets that he put together - all the stuff that he did,” Fiola said. “But we just know that there’s so much, so many stories that are probably gone, because of Ray’s unique ability to recall all those little details, all those stories. He just had an encyclopedic knowledge of Worthington, and that’s going to be missed.”
Crippen is survived by one brother, Gary (Sandy) Crippen; and seven nieces and nephews.
The funeral service for Crippen will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Worthington. Visitation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. at the church. Benson Funeral Home, Worthington, is in charge of the arrangements.

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Ray Crippen is pictured in his home in this November 2012 photo on the occasion of an imminent honor by the Minnesota West Foundation. Crippen, a 1950 graduate of then-Worthington Junior College, was recognized for his many years of support to the college’s Worthington campus. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

Related Topics: HISTORY
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