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Slain newspaper editor dedicated his life to 'hard truths'

Slain newspaper editor dedicated his life to 'hard truths'
Erica Fischman, left, widow of Capital editor Gerald Fischman, is comforted by her daughter Uka Saran, center, and a relative during the gravesite service for Fischman on Sunday. (Amy Davis / Associated Press)

A shy man who expressed his brilliant intellect through his editorials, Gerald Fischman wrote hundreds of thousands of words for the Capital newspaper before a gunman burst into the newsroom and killed him and four other co-workers.

Capital Gazette editor Rick Hutzell wiped away tears Sunday as he read aloud some of those words for more than 150 relatives, friends and co-workers who gathered for Fischman’s funeral service and burial at Judean Memorial Gardens cemetery in Olney, Md.

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Hutzell said his friend and 61-year-old colleague dedicated his life to telling “hard truths,” no matter the topic. And the small-town editorial page editor tackled a broad range of subjects, from local politics and civil rights to annual takes on Mother’s Day and high school graduations.

“His voice as a writer will be greatly missed. His wisdom cannot be replaced,” Hutzell said.

Fischman and four other staffers were killed June 28 when a gunman who had a grudge against the newspaper attacked its offices in Annapolis, Md., authorities said. The suspect, Jarrod Ramos, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

Hundreds of grieving families and colleagues attended memorial services recently for community reporter and editor Wendi Winters and assistant editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen.

A memorial service for sales assistant Rebecca Smith, 34, was planned for Sunday evening. A service for sports reporter John McNamara is scheduled for Tuesday on the University of Maryland’s campus.

Fischman, a 1979 graduate of the University of Maryland’s journalism school, had worked at the Capital for 26 years after 15 years at another Maryland newspaper, the Carroll County Times.

Longtime Capital sportswriter Bill Wagner said Fischman was a stickler for accuracy who, instead of emailing colleagues, would print out drafts of his editorials and leave copies on colleagues’ desks for them to proofread for accuracy.

“His intellect was beyond par,” Wagner said. “He was one of the most intelligent people I’ve encountered in my life.”

Fischman also was known for his quirky behavior. Wagner said Fischman used to have a preference for working overnight shifts that started after most of his co-workers had gone home for the night.

“He chose to do it that way,” Wagner said.

Rabbi Larry Shor, who led the funeral service, was a classmate of Fischman’s from kindergarten through high school. Audience members laughed when Shor recalled how his childhood friend would bring an adult briefcase to elementary school.

“Gerald was, as a child, the same person that he was an adult: quiet and introverted but extraordinarily highly intelligent,” he said. “He marched to the beat of his own drummer and was quite happy to do so.”

Fischman is survived by his wife, Erica, and stepdaughter Uka Saran, who read aloud poems that Fischman wrote for her and her mother. Fischman was 50 when he married Erica, who was an opera singer from Mongolia. She said she learned after the shooting that his last purchase was a birthday card for her.

“I never would have thought that he would leave us so sudden and so soon,” she said. “We were so happy together.”

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Glenn Mazis, one of Fischman’s cousins, described him as a gifted writer with boundless curiosity, especially about history, politics and music.

“He was fascinated by life,” Mazis said. “He met every assignment with enthusiasm and creativity.”

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