Former editorial page editor of the Dayton Daily News dies

Tom Teepen worked for the Dayton Daily News from 1958 to 1982. STAFF

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Tom Teepen worked for the Dayton Daily News from 1958 to 1982. STAFF

Tom Teepen, retired Cox columnist and a former editorial page editor of the Dayton Daily News, died Sunday morning.

He was 82.

Tom earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio University and started his career with the Dayton Daily News in 1958. He worked there until 1982, working as a reporter, editorial writer and editorial page editor.

Teepen served as the editorial page editor of The Atlanta Constitution from 1982 to 1992 and as a national columnist for Cox Newspapers from 1992 to 2000.

His wife of more than 30 years, Sandy Teepen, had just gone home after visiting him at Hospice Atlanta, where he had been since Friday.

Sandy played Al Jarreau, Sun Ra and the bluegrass records that she and Tom collected over the years. She listened to the music of string quartets on Saturday, “trying to put it all in my head,” she said.

Her husband had been battling various illnesses since a kidney transplant 10 years ago and had been taken to the emergency room several times over the last year. About six weeks ago, Tom lost the ability to communicate with his family.

Sandy said his death brings a sense of peace and closure.

In addition to his wife, Tom leaves behind daughter Kris Teepen-Garcia; son Jeremy Teepen; stepdaughter Jennifer Koerlin-Fearn; eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Tom and Sandy were each other’s second spouses, and when the couple married, Tom’s son wisely noted that they became “a family of spare parts.”

Tom loved his work, and Sandy said Tom’s mother once told her that Tom wanted to be a newspaper man as young as age 7.

“He used to write stories on paper and hand them out to people,” Sandy said she was told.

Joe Geshwiler, retired Constitution editorial writer, said Tom was the most effortless writer he had met in half a century, writing frequent columns and nearly one editorial every day — and making it look easy.

Geshwiler said that when Tom’s 10-year-old granddaughter expressed an interest in one of his passions, jazz, he composed a column to introduce her to the giants of the genre. “As an example of Tom’s way with words, he noted that Coleman Hawkins’ rendition of ‘Body and Soul’ proves ‘that poetry can be written as well by a tenor saxophone as a pen.’ ”

The couple moved to Atlanta in 1983.

“We fell in love with the city and consider ourselves Atlantans,” Sandy said.

She remembers Tom as “an avid reader who loved history, jazz, art galleries and going out.”

Sandy said the only thing Tom didn’t love was dancing, and while she did like to dance, she wouldn’t do so without Tom.

In his columns and editorials, Tom urged support for public education, civil and abortion rights, sustainable energy policies and economic game plans that gave more U.S. families a share of the American dream.

Conversely, he opposed capital punishment, global-warming denial and weapons proliferation in America and abroad. Plus, he took delight in skewering politicians who wrapped themselves in the Stars and Stripes or a mantle of religiosity.

Marilyn Geewax, a former Constitution columnist and editorial writer who is now a National Public Radio business analyst living in Washington, called Tom a hero.

“I always thought of him as a Renaissance beatnik,” Geewax said. “He loved jazz and poetry and freedom and art. He was brilliant and passionate and kind.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Bookman said he learned from Tom that “an opinion writer could be both rational and passionate, but when forced to choose between them, always stick with rational.”

Bookman believed Tom fought hard and well for what he believed in, but always did it with a good heart.

The family plans to host a gathering for family and friends in about six weeks at a location in the Atlanta area.

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