This undated photo shows Rob Hiaasen, Capital Gazette Deputy Editor. Hiaasen was one of the victims when an active shooter targeted the newsroom, Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Annapolis, Md. (The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Hundreds celebrate the life of slain Maryland journalist

Rob Hiaasen was one of the victims when an active shooter targeted the newsroom

Days after journalist Rob Hiaasen and four colleagues were shot to death by a gunman who blasted his way into the Capital Gazette’s newsroom, an overflow crowd gathered on Monday evening to remember the man they loved in stories, poems, and songs.

Attendees at the “celebration of life” held at a Maryland nature centre said they would remember Hiaasen for how he lived, rather than the way he died senselessly at the hands of a gunman twisted by hate and festering rage. They sought solace with laughter and funny memories, but sobs occasionally punctuated the ceremony.

“I want to just remember what a wonderful person Rob was and what a great, wonderful, selfless life he led,” said Kevin Cowherd, one of several speakers who addressed the crowd of roughly 500 people assembled beneath a large white tent.

Cowherd, an author who worked with Hiaasen for years at The Baltimore Sun, described him as an open, fun-loving man who found humour in everything. As a writer, Hiaasen was versatile and drawn to the quirky, he said. As a colleague, he was kind and encouraging.

Hannah Hiaasen, his youngest daughter, said the family called him “Big Rob” — a nickname that perfectly fit the assistant managing editor who stood 6-foot-5. But it wasn’t just his height that made the nickname ring true to those who knew him best.

“He had a really, really big heart,” she said, before reading a poem in her dad’s honour.

Meanwhile, Maryland police investigating America’s latest mass murder said Monday that Jarrod Ramos, the man charged with the slayings, sent three threatening letters on the day of the attack. Sgt. Jacklyn Davis, a spokeswoman for Anne Arundel County police, said the letters were received Monday.

Ramos, 38, has a well-documented history of harassing the paper’s journalists. He filed a defamation suit in 2012 that was thrown out as groundless and often railed against them in profanity-laced tweets. Ramos was arrested by police after the attack Thursday. He is in custody and faces five counts of first-degree murder.

Related: 5 dead, others wounded at Maryland newspaper shooting

Related: Suspect in Maryland newspaper shooting to appear on 5 murder charges

Tom Marquardt, the onetime publisher of the Capital Gazette, told The Associated Press at Hiaasen’s memorial that Ramos sent one letter to a company lawyer saying he was on his way to the Annapolis newspaper “to kill as many people” as he could. The letter dated June 28 — the day of the deadly attack — was sent to Robert C. Douglas, a lawyer for the newspaper, Marquardt said.

“In that letter, he was talking to the appeals court judge and suggesting that he didn’t do a very good job on the case and as a result he was going to have to take out his vengeance in a different way,” Marquardt told AP.

Letters were also sent to a Baltimore judge, as well as a judge at the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

At the heartrending gathering for Hiaasen, friends and colleagues lauded him as a dedicated professional who was committed to the craft of journalism and loved mentoring the next generation of reporters. He was remembered for his love of family and enduring pride in his job. He made friends easily and had a bunch of them.

The Baltimore-based novelist Anne Tyler, whose works include “The Accidental Tourist” and the Pulitzer-prize-winning “Breathing Lessons,” joined Hiaasen’s family and colleagues to honour the friend she says she already misses.

“I loved him dearly. I thought he was smart and funny and wise,” Tyler said before the gathering began.

The slain journalist’s brother, Carl Hiaasen, a prolific novelist and a longtime Miami Herald columnist, on Friday described his younger sibling as “a person of phenomenal grace.”

Hiaasen had just celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary with his wife, Maria, whose birthday was on the day of the newsroom attack. His widow, displaying great strength along with the couple’s three children, said Rob was her best friend and a loving, generous partner.

“I’m going to try and hold him here,” she said, clasping her hands to her heart.

___

Associated Press Writer Brian Witte contributed to this report in Annapolis.

David McFadden, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Vancouver Giants earn a 3-1 victory over Everett in season-opener in Langley

Langley’s major junior hockey team opened the season at home with a victory over the Silvertips.

White Rock rail forum leads to renewed calls for relocation

Upgrading safety is not enough say local politicians

McCallum says Surrey LRT communication plan close to election is ‘perceived interference’

McCallum ‘gravely concerned’ Surrey and TransLink will violate election financing rules, but city says all rules will be followed

White Rock’s Johnston Road to re-open on schedule: city

One lane in each direction expected to open by Friday at 7 p.m.

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

Free vet clinic caters to pets of homeless, low income people

The first such clinic in Langley will take place later this month.

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

Extradition hearing set for Lower Mainland developer accused of fraud

Mark Chandler will go before the B.C. Court of Appeals early next year.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Most Read