Salisbury, Md., sports editor passed on newspaper passion

DOVER — Some notes and quotes between headlines and deadlines…

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We received some sad news from Salisbury, Maryland, on Friday.

Rick Cullen, a sportswriter and sports editor for 32 years at the Daily Times, passed away.

Mr. Cullen was a great influence on this editor, as well as Delaware State News reporter Craig Anderson.

We both learned quite a bit from him through the years.

In my case, Mr. Cullen signed me up as “Times Correspondent” in 1980. Then a high school senior, I covered sports events all over Delmarva, getting paid $5 per assignment, plus 50 cents per column inch.

Mr. Anderson spent a few years on the staff there in Salisbury as a sports writer.

We have swapped a few stories about Mr. Cullen’s newsroom persona. The man knew how to cover local sports — everything from Little League to college sports on Delmarva.

He was not one to sugarcoat a newspaper life, telling it like it was, often with four-letter words.

But, he made it clear that it could be fun and when you worked under a deadline with him, there was always plenty of laughter.

Oddly enough, Mr. Cullen was in my thoughts Thursday night as WBOC-TV reported on the 800th win of Wicomico High School basketball coach Butch Waller.

Coach Waller has been at my alma mater Wi-Hi for 52 years.

He, too, was one of the folks who encouraged my sportswriting at the Daily Times, and I covered quite a few of the team’s games.

On one deadline night, Mr. Cullen was laughing loudly and scribbling some notes as I was two-finger typing up a story on a Wi-Hi basketball win.

He asked me to move over and started typing at the top of my story, laughing all the while about a quote from Coach Waller that his team had a “Timex” night — you know, “takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”

Coach Waller’s call to the newspaper was routine, something he did countless times over the years to make sure his athletes got the recognition.

Mr. Cullen, a Delmar native, was at the Daily Times from 1964 to 1996.

After that, he worked in sales, most recently for Morningstar Publications in Western Sussex.

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It is nice to have readers that pay close attention to details throughout the paper.

A few days ago, a reader called in to question the math in the “Nancy” comic strip last week.

The last frame said, “Nancy joined Fritzi’s family in December of 1933 … We thank you for allowing Nancy to be a part of your family for the past 75 years.”

The reader duly noted that the math should have been 85 years.

It turns out that this was one of the retro strips from artist Guy Gilchrist that had originally appeared 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it wasn’t labeled clearly to show when it was first printed.

It’s always interesting to think about Nancy’s roots.

Five years ago, the “From the Editor” column featured an interview with Mr. Gilchrist.

“It’s an unconventional family with unconditional love and it’s this little story that goes along each day, basically unaffected by the woes of the world,” Mr. Gilchrist said at the time.

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Speaking of comics, we would be remiss in not sharing the news of Mort Walker’s death.

Mr. Walker, who lived to be 94, was the comic strip artist who created Beetle Bailey. Delaware State News readers have enjoyed the humor of the slacker and the gang at Camp Swampy for for many years.

According to the Associated Press, Mr. Walker began publishing cartoons at age 11 and was involved with more than a half-dozen comic strips in his career.

Mr. Walker said in an interview once that the strip succeeded because of Beetle’s reluctance to follow authority.

“Most people are sort of against authority,” Mr. Walker said in an interview with the Associated Press years ago. “Here’s Beetle always challenging authority. I think people relate to it.”

Greg and Brian Walker, his sons, plan to carry on their father’s work.

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The Friday edition of the Airlifter featured a heartbreaking story about “Rico” — a military working dog — who had to be put to rest on Jan. 24.

Today’s edition includes a few photos of Rico and the story.

Rico’s image, some readers of the Delaware State News will recall, was used on the front of the War Dog Memorial, dedicated in August 2015 at the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park in Dover. The stone features the German Shepherd with his handler, then-Staff Sgt. Jason Spangenberg of the 436th Security Forces Squadron.

SSgt. Spangenberg and Rico served in Afghanistan and were awarded the Bronze Star for detecting improvised explosive devices.

“I truly couldn’t have completed and accomplished everything we had done on tour without him by my side,” SSgt. Spangenberg said at the 2015 dedication ceremony in Dover.

The Airlifter features two pages of touching photos by Staff Sgt. Aaron J. Jenne. It can be read online at http://airlifter.de.newsmemory.com/

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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