For 35 years at the Worthington Daily Globe, Ray Crippen directed the news and wrote about his hometown with a gentle joy, humor and respect, say those who worked with him over the decades.
But Crippen was more than an editor and columnist or chronicler of events, they say. He served as Worthington’s unofficial memory, its flesh-and-blood archive of life in a southwestern Minnesota town the way it once was.
“If you needed some facts about Worthington, Minnesota, he’d dredge them up from somewhere in his mind,” said Bob Demuth Sr., a former mayor.
Said Jerry Fiola, who knew Crippen for more than 30 years and is a committee member for the Nobles County Historical Society: “Ray was the voice of Worthington.”
Crippen, 85, died Sunday at his home in Worthington, where he had been under hospice care for a short time.
Beth Rickers, a reporter at the Daily Globe for more than 25 years, chronicled Crippen’s life last week for readers, telling the story of a man who went from being a Daily Globe paperboy during World War II to becoming the paper’s executive editor with quiet grace.
“He was just a true gentleman,” Rickers said. “He never raised his voice. He was very diplomatic. And very much a team player … You never worked for Ray, you worked with Ray. He led by example.”
Crippen grew up in Worthington, parlaying that first job as a paperboy into an interest that took him to the University of Minnesota, where he majored journalism and political science with a minor in history. He served during the Korean War, and wrote for Stars and Stripes, from 1952 to 1954.
In 1954, Crippen returned to Worthington, where he once again went to work for his hometown newspaper. Rickers said he worked in advertising, circulation and composition before moving into the newsroom, where he became city editor and then, managing editor.
Demuth, who was Worthington’s mayor for 20 years, said Crippen, who never married, was devoted to his town.
Once, former Vice President Walter Mondale offered Crippen a job on his staff while Mondale still was a U.S. senator. Crippen politely declined, in part perhaps, because of the grueling pace of the job, but also because he didn’t want to leave.
“Ray was just a Worthington guy,” Rickers said. “I think he was very content with the role that he played here.”
Crippen left his job at the paper in 1989, but continued writing a weekly column about Worthington’s history. Those Saturday columns, many of which are posted on the newspaper’s website, covered everything from long-ago Christmases to the Habicht’s department store fire to the dearth of horses at the Nobles County Fair. He wrote with warmth, affection, and a steel-trap memory.
Bill Keitel, a local leathersmith who shared an interest in history with Crippen over a 45-year friendship, called his friend a few weeks ago for help researching the 1881 railroad journey of the wealthy Duke of Sutherland from New York to Denver.
“I asked Ray if he could have stopped in Worthington,” Keitel recalled.
“Oh golly, indeed he would,” Crippen replied. “Worthington was the only fuel stop between Chicago and Sioux City.”
Said Keitel: “I thought of him as a sociologist and anthropologist. He had an above-average ability to step back and view the daily situation of our lives. And he’d do it in such a way that he didn’t insult anybody.”
Fiola said Crippen, like the subject of a poem, was Worthington’s family archivist. “The person who has all these stories and memories,” he said. “And with the passing of that person, they go away as well.”
Crippen is survived by a brother, Gary Crippen; and seven nieces and nephews. Services have been held.