Longtime The Dalles Chronicle reporter Leroy “Elroy” King, 74, died suddenly at about 10 p.m., Tuesday, April 5, 2011, at Vibra Specialty Hospital in Portland.
"Every newsperson plays a significant part in the history of making news,” said Marilyn Roth, Chronicle publisher. “Elroy was the bedrock of that news for almost 47 years. Words cannot convey his contribution to The Dalles Chronicle, and he will be deeply missed.”
King’s death occurred suddenly, while he and his wife, Frances King, were making plans for his return to The Dalles.
He was born July 6, 1936, in Chewelah, Wash., the only son to Newland Folk King and Minnie May Knapp. He lived in a number of Washington towns, moving for his father’s job as a school teacher in one-room school houses.
“He was also Elroy’s school teacher and principal,” said his wife.
He graduated from Bremerton High School and attended junior college in Bremerton, Wash., then worked for a year in Seattle before enrolling in the University of Washington school of journalism. Before coming to The Dalles, he worked for the Aberdeen Daily World, as well as newspapers in Pasco, Wash., and Montesano, Wash.
He married Frances King on May 9, 1975, and served as step-father to her three children. They celebrated their 35th anniversary in 2010, and were together a total of 38 years.
King worked for The Chronicle from July 15, 1964, until he was hospitalized Dec. 26, 2010, for heart problems. He began his career with The Chronicle as a sports editor and served in that capacity for more than 10 years before taking over the city desk in the 1970s. During his career he covered almost every news beat in the city. Most recently, he covered the faith beat, police, fire and city planning, among other general assignments.
“He made friends with every city councilman, fireman, policeman, state trooper and Wasco County Sherriff’s deputy, ambulance crew drivers … they trusted him,” said Fran King. “He always said, ‘It’s not how much they say, it’s what they don’t say or how they say it. “He enjoyed his craft.”
He also provided a variety of other copy for the paper, including the “Looking Back” history feature, “What’s Happening,” circuit court and grand jury reports, and others. He also is remembered for his columns “Under My Hat” and “Trivia and Trauma.”
“From one former sports reporter to another, he served as the news team’s utility player,” said Kathy Ursprung, Chronicle managing editor. “He did a lot of behind-the-scenes work that few people knew about, and also served as our institutional memory. He had an incredibly big heart and a strong sense of his integrity. We are all missing him today and have felt his absence since he entered the hospital.”
After starting to cover drug and dependency court graduations, that big heart led him into advocacy for those recovering from drug addiction. Working through the First Christian Church, he took a number of people under his wing and called them his “extended family.”
King was also known at The Chronicle as a snappy dresser and a ready wit, not only in his humorous columns, but also in the office, where he always had a comeback or wry observation at the ready.
He served as head usher at First Christian, and was a member of the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission, and served as chairman, past president and life member of the Salvation Army advisory board, and was honored many times for writing and news coverage. He was also a member of the Mid-Columbia Car Club, and owned a classic Chevrolet Impala.
He was a wood crafter and sold many of his crafts at shows. He also enjoyed working in his garden.
King is survived by his wife, at home in The Dalles; his step-children Sgt. Stuart Lunsford and wife Kristin, of Fredricksburg, Va., and their children Peter, Matthew, Mary Kaitlin and Michael; Catherine Mary Keilman and her husband Dr. Mark Keilman, and their children Nicholas Coles, Patricia Coles, Maria Keilman, Nicholas Keilman and Alexis; Rev. Mary Kearns and husband Rev. Jesse Kearns, Chico, Calif., and their children Graham, Connor and Cameron Kearns.
He is also survived by his cat, Bell, five “great-granddogs” the eight deer and numerous birds that regularly visited his yard, “and any other dog or animal that would come up to him,” his wife said. “He didn’t know animal strangers."
King is an organ donor and his eyes will go to someone in need.
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