George Grim, a wide-ranging, globe-trotting journalist best known for the "I Like It Here" and Santa Anonymous columns for the Minneapolis Tribune, died Sunday night at his home in Key Biscayne, Fla. He was 99.
In addition to writing columns and human interest stories for the Minneapolis Star and then its sister newspaper the Tribune, from the 1940s to the 1980s, Grim also was a prolific foreign correspondent and a Twin Cities radio and TV personality. Even after moving to Florida in the 1970s, he continued to write for the Minneapolis papers.
"George was a man about town, into everything socially, the town crier," said retired Star Tribune columnist Jim Klobuchar, who in many ways was Grim's successor. "He was an unusual combo for the times -- not only a popular community columnist with expansive tastes on what interested readers, but also an accomplished World War II correspondent."
According to retired columnist Barbara Flanagan, Grim was the only child of a New Jersey dentist and his wife. He moved to Minnesota in his 20s, his parents in tow, to do promotions for the Star, producing a radio ad in which he famously said in his East Coast accent, "Don't say 'pah-puh,' say 'Minneapolis Stah'!"
By 1947, when Flanagan joined the morning Tribune, "he was a famous foreign correspondent, covering our Minnesota boys in action overseas."
"He also was all over WCCO Radio and Channel 2 [KTCA TV], talking about everything under the sun," she said. "He was a real character, and everyone knew who he was."
After the war, Grim continued for many years to write dispatches from all over the nation and the world, including Canada, Britain, Egypt, Israel, Poland, East Germany, Peru, China and the Philippines.
In 1945, he launched the Santa Anonymous column and its extensive volunteer operation to help what he called "up-against-it families." Klobuchar, who took it over from him in the 1980s, said they both liked the idea of "the public anonymously making gifts to poor folks that would be presented to children directly by parents," a concept they felt lent dignity to all involved.
Over the decades, Santa Anonymous collected hundreds of thousands of gifts and hundreds of thousands of dollars, every penny of it spent on gifts for needy children.
Despite his forays into radio and TV, Grim was primarily "a newspaperman who loved the business, the give-and-take of the newsroom, and an affable guy well liked in the newsroom," Klobuchar said.
Grim's desire to help others and his sense of humor meshed well during his volunteer work with St. Cloud prison inmates, Klobuchar said. "He was friends there with a fellow who called himself Grim George who wrote a prison paper column called 'I Don't Like It Here,'" Klobuchar said.
Outside of work, Grim was in demand as a public speaker. He was also a gifted concert and theatrical organist.
After moving to a resort community in Florida, Grim enjoyed a quieter life, immersing himself in volunteer activities, outdoors activities and reading. "I moved [to Florida] because I simply decided I wanted to be somebody else," he told the Tribune in 1977. "I'm George Grim, but a different one. I wanted to move to a place where I knew nobody. People judge me as I am right this minute, not what I was."
Grim, who never married and who was the last of his family line -- "I don't have a single relative anywhere on Earth -- when I go, that's it," he said in '77 -- had requested no services, said a Florida friend, Dottie Dekko. "On his last night, he was able to sit up in bed and look out over the water, which he loved," she said.
Pamela Miller • 612-673-4290