Schick was great friend, devoted to newspapers

Feb 1, 2021


The N’West Iowa REVIEW, Sheldon, Iowa

Christmas is a particularly difficult time to lose a loved one. You truly miss them as you gather around the table for your family celebrations but find joy in knowing they’re feasting with the “reason for the season” Himself, as all heaven rejoices in Christ’s birth.

I lost a good friend, fellow newspaper man and mentor earlier this month when C. Dennis Schick, the executive director of the Arkansas Press Association, 1979-2004, died.

Dennis was many things to many people — newspaper reporter, advertising salesperson, college professor, thoughtful writer, business manager, helpful critic, encourager and, I am told, singer.

According to his son Greg, Dennis had the loudest baritone voice in the Lakewood UMC choir and could easily be heard above all others in the choir using “the voice the good Lord gave him.”

I am not sure if I met Dennis at a National Newspaper Association function during my time on the NNA board or when he first invited me to speak at one of his association functions. Whichever, we enjoyed a friendship that spread over 30 years. One reason, perhaps, was because we both had a special love for the newspaper business.

Dennis was quick witted and excited about every aspect of life.

He and his wife, Jan, were exceptional hosts and always took the extra step to assure my visits to Little Rock, Arkansas, where they continued to live following retirement, were more than just a speaking engagement. Almost every time Connie and I traveled there for a conference, the two of them would insist on taking us out to dinner, or even more special, having us in for meal at their home.

Years after his retirement, when I was in Little Rock to again address a newspaper conference, Dennis committed an entire day to show me all that was new in his favorite city. We spent much of the afternoon at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library but also took time to visit over meals at two of his favorite restaurants.

Dennis was a man of action, and his quick decisions could get him into a bit of trouble. Connie still remembers the time she was using the convention hotel’s ladies’ restroom and came out of her stall to discover Dennis standing in front of a mirror combing his hair. I am not sure who was more embarrassed by his wrong turn at the open doorways, but I remember Connie saying that Dennis made a quick retreat when he realized his error.

Dennis and the Arkansas Press Association invited me to present at a number of their conventions. He had confidence in me but often added his input to my program. Once, when I was speaking on ways to design a great ad, he came early to my presentation room with a set of photocopied workbooks featuring some of my various handouts. He’d even created a cover that gave me credit for the presentation but himself credit for the workbook. From that time forward, I used that same workbook, with his name boldly inscribed on the cover, whenever I did that seminar.

Another time, when he knew I was having difficulty creating a fresh program to share at a conference far from his state, he emailed me a detailed outline on how to get the audience involved. It involved hanging big envelopes filled with various items — a photo of the White House, a pair of undershorts, a dinner fork — on a clothesline and asking participants to choose one at random. Each new item, he said, would spark a different conversation. It was a unique idea, but I never used it. I wasn’t sure how to hang a clothesline in a hotel banquet room.

That clothesline idea probably came from his other love — magic. He began writing and editing for The Linking Ring, the magazine of the international magicians’ organization, following retirement. In that role, he shared two loves with my son, Jay P. Both were enthusiastic newspapermen, and Jay enjoyed performing magic tricks on stage or one-on-one from the time he was a small boy. We lost Jay to cancer 10 years ago, but I’m sure he and Dennis are having some great publishing and performing discussions right now in heaven.

Dennis apparently passed on peacefully. According to his son, he had spent time with his family over the weekend and was ready to go and knew it was time. Jan, who had been at his side for 61 years, was with him when he died.

“We are comforted,” said his son Greg, “that he was ready, believed Jesus was who He said He was, and is no longer in pain.“

Dennis made it a point to invite me to deliver the keynote speech at his last convention as the Arkansas Press Association executive director.

“I can’t imagine ending my career without you being there,” he wrote in the invitation. Then he gave me some excellent suggestions on what to say to encourage and motivate “his people” as he finished his years as their leader. He was like that — loyal, encouraging and detailed.

But he was also critical — not in a hurtful way, but in a loving attempt to make you even better at what you do. And that day, following my presentation, he slipped up beside me to say “That was good, but you really should have included ...”

I called Jan Schick on Tuesday to offer my condolences. During that conversation I asked her, thinking of her husband’s love of singing, if she thought there was one big choir in heaven or many smaller choirs making beautiful music in every corner.

“I don’t know,” she replied, “but I hope there are lots of quartets and they change their membership often. That way Dennis can go from group to group meeting and enjoying new people and singing his heart out.”

And right now, the songs will be about the promise and joy of the greatest Christmas gift of all, Jesus Christ. What a wonderful time to be there.

Peter W. Wagner lives in Sibley, Iowa. He is the founder/publisher of The N’West Iowa REVIEW and may be reached at