My Biggest Fan and Best PR Man

Most of the posts on this blog are about journalism. Today I am writing about the man who made me want to become a journalist and gave me the guts and curiosity to become a good one.

My dad, Ed Anzur, passed away last Friday. It was not a surprise. About a year ago he was diagnosed as having an aneurism that could kill him at any time. We didn’t know if he had 10 minutes or ten years left to live. Because of various health problems he was basically confined to a bed that my mom had set up in the family room of their house and she made a heroic effort to keep him from ever going to a nursing home. Throughout the entire ordeal “Ed in the Bed” kept us all laughing with his unforgettable sense of humor. He was sharp as a tack right up until the end, reading several sports pages every day and always ready to kick our butts in a card game. Here’s a picture I took of him on last Christmas. He was always the first to notice if I left a person’s age out of a story so I had better tell you he was 85.
Ed Anzur was born in the front bedroom of the house his Austrian immigrant father built in Shamokin, Pennsylvania. It was and is a hardscrabble Appalachian coal mining town. His father died when he was only 3, so his father figures were his two older brothers, John and Gus. Of the five siblings in his family, Ed was the only one who managed to marry and have kids. He was the local tennis champion on the public courts and tooted his $20 coronet from the Sears catalog in the Coal Township High School Band. He might have been a great radio sports announcer, but World War II had other plans. Ed served with honor as the quartermaster on the destroyer escort USS Manning in the Pacific. At every port of call, Ed would spring off the boat and yell, “Is there anybody here from Shamokin?” There was usually someone from the area and this began our family tradition known as “making buddies,” or finding instant friends wherever you happen to be in the world.

After the war Ed became the first person in his family to go to college, graduating from Villanova University on the GI Bill and joining the DuPont company in Wilmington, Delaware. He also returned to his hometown and married a young beauty who had been just a kid when he left for the war: my mom. They moved to California in the early 1960s with me and my two younger brothers in tow. Ed would pull the Dodge Dart into Anytown USA and ask a total stranger, “Where’s a good family place to eat?” We’d find the local busy bee and have a great meal. My dad was a real people person who enjoyed selling DuPont Freon to clients all over California. He was also the world’s greatest sports fan, especially when one of his beloved Philadelphia teams was involved. I am so glad he lived to see the Phillies win the World Series. One of the big regrets of my life is that I didn’t take him seriously when he tried to teach me golf and tennis when I was 6. (I was only interested in ballet.) He signed me up as the scorekeeper when he coached my brothers’ little league teams. By playing father-daughter tennis with him, I learned a lot about teamwork. We had a tradition of father-daughter “date night,” which exposed me to opera, ballet, tennis tournaments and box seats at Dodger Stadium.

Just by being himself, Ed taught me the importance of asking questions about other people. He could never sit down in a restaurant without finding out where the waitress was born and where she went to high school. If you were his friend, he would make it his business to find out your birthday and your wedding anniversary and send you a card. Every year. It is sad to think those cards won’t be arriving any more. He also made it a point to let his entire grapevine know if I won an award or tackled a particularly dangerous story assignment. He was a great PR man.

A child of the Great Depression, Ed had a hard time throwing anything away, especially newspapers. He would cut them up and sort the clippings into envelopes to be mailed to the various people on his list, always editing for what might interest each person the most. I can’t tell you how many broadcast story ideas I got from Ed’s clipping pile over the years. Everybody thought Ed was great guy because he wanted to talk about them and not about himself. Because I am Ed’s daughter, I can ask anybody a question about anything. Ed took a lot of pride in my accomplishments and always had career advice like, “If you want to get ahead in the business world, read the sports page so you will always have something to talk about.”

I want to thank everyone who has sent their condolences to my family. He didn’t have much of a life at the end, and I am sure that he is better off in heaven, where the card game is in full swing and he has already asked St. Peter where he went to high school.

Update: Claudia Palma from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune devoted her Sunday Tribute feature to Ed. Here’s the link: