Jules Loh, One of the Great Reporters Who Ever Lived, Dies at 79
We met Jules Loh in the early 1980s, at our previous gig as the do-it-all dudes for the Sierra Vista Herald down at the Mexico border.
He was there with his buddy from the Associated Press, Jack Cappon (author of a Bible for writers called The Word) to work on a film documentary that would celebrate the 50th anniversary of his news organization.
We (the two of us included former colleague Jeremy Voas (later an editor of this paper) were to be "featured" in a segment of the doc reprising our role in feeding the AP beast with breaking stories on the 1983 fatal shootout in Miracle Valley between sheriff's deputies and a religious cult.
Loh took a liking to us (especially after we finagled our way into the Elks club for some after-hours beverages), and would spend the next several years sending us written critiques of our stories -- analyses in which he inevitably jotted down what he would have done with the first few paragraphs.
He had just a smidgen more experience than us at the time -- try about 30 years worth -- and had covered the JFK, RFK and MLK assassinations, as well as just about every major civil rights event in the Deep South that transpired in the 1960s.
But we will remember Loh more for the "little" stories he composed, lots of them in character-rich locales such as Louisiana (there was this gator who lived in the town swimming pool down in Ponchatoula), and the tale of a man from a town called Dooms who had been struck by lightning a bunch of times and lived to talk about it.
He spent an inordinate amount of time in Arizona, often writing about Native-Americans, including a cool book about the Navajos entitled Lords of the Earth. We remember him telling us that tribal elders had dubbed him with a nickname that meant "Many Pencils," in tribute to his habit of carrying several sharpened pencils with him on the job.
Jules Loh's kindnesses to us were legion.
In the late 1980s, we were stuck trying to start a piece about infighting at the venerable Trinity Cathedral in downtown Phoenix. Loh was in town working on something or another, and we were, as usual, telling lies at a local pub.
We told him a bit about the yarn. He nodded and asked for a pen.
He scribbled something on a paper napkin, handed it to us, and said to stick it in our shirt pocket and look at it later.
It said, "The old pastor stepped to the pulpit and got straight to the point."
We ran with it, and quickly.
We stuck the napkin in a scrapbook, and that's where it sits, two decades down the road.