Nick Katz – remembering a one-of-a-kind friend

by Mike Isaacs

I knew Nick for more than 25 years through our jobs at Pioneer Press. We shared multiple offices – until we didn’t have offices any longer – and multiple editors. We served as fill-in editors together on many occasions and supported each other during stressful times when we had to edit and cover our towns simultaneously.

We were also union brothers, devoted Guild members who shared a strong belief that employees should be treated fairly by employers. Nick used to tell me of his earlier days working at a factory, when “union” was a dirty word and when employees were treated as mere cogs in a wheel.

From the time he came to Pioneer Press 30 years ago, Nick was an unwavering union supporter. Even in his last days, he was a member of the Guild’s Communications Committee in the union’s fight for a fair contract.

As a close friend, I cherished Nick’s sharp sense of humor and his quick-witted barbs. He was not necessarily an outgoing person to everyone, but once they got to know him, they instinctively liked him. He was bright, quick-witted with a sense of humor that always stood out.

When Nick was gone for any time, mostly due to myriad health issues in recent years, it felt like everyone who ever knew him wanted to know how he was getting along.

Nick and I had playful battles of opinions that lasted not years but decades. He had a passionate dislike for Apple computer products while I was a fan; he was a cool weather guy while I liked my weather toasty. It was not uncommon for me to receive an email from him on a record-breaking hot temperature day with a forwarded “heat alert” and one carefully chosen expletive directed at me.

He loved blues music, hard-boiled detective novels – especially Raymond Chandler classics — and “The Simpsons” and “Seinfeld.” He loved to read. He had a passion for computers and cooking. And he was a damn good reporter and writer.

His first beat as a Pioneer Press reporter was in Deerfield. He covered city politics in Park Ridge and was later the first reporter for the new Lincolnwood Review. He also covered municipal and school beats in Skokie, Northbrook and Morton Grove, the latter his longest and final beat.

I covered Morton Grove before Nick did, and many years ago, when he was assigned to the same town, I asked him whether any of his sources remembered me. Without missing a beat, he recounted, “Of course they remember you. They said to say hi to Marv.”

For the next decade or more, Nick would only refer to me as Marv.

My friend certainly could be cynical, but that cynicism was borne from his incredulity when he saw a lack of compassion from people – whether it be national politicians or those closer to home. He was caustic at times (but always witty and entertaining), and far from a sentimentalist; but those who knew him best recognized those traits sprung from his belief that all people should be treated with compassion and respect, and because they were not, he could become disillusioned.

Nick had high principles, a sense of what was right and wrong in the world, and that drove his often wickedly funny sense of humor. It also drove his frustration and even cynicism. But while he would never fess up to this, that cynicism came from the very best place: A heartfelt conviction that people need to be good to one another.

I will miss him greatly and will think of him often – especially on those summer days when the temperature skyrockets and I know my dear friend would have let me hear about it in a way only he could deliver.

For more about Nick and to access his published obituary, go to www.mortongrove.suntimes.com/20089398-781/veteran-morton-grove-pioneer-press-reporter-dies.html

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2 Responses to Nick Katz – remembering a one-of-a-kind friend

  1. Judy Brinkworth says:

    What a wonderfully written tribute, Mike. When we all were in Evanston (you know who you are) it was, in retrospect, magical. What a group! And Nick … Nick was the funniest person I ever met (besides my husband). What he said – and the gruff way he said it – unique. When I think of him, I smile. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty great legacy.

  2. Kathy Routliffe says:

    Thank you for this remembrance, Mike. You sketched him so well, all the wit and the hooded idealism, and the quirks (and oh, how right you are about the heat; he hated heat!) Nick was one of the funniest, kindest, most brilliant men I’ve known, and one of the best reporters as well. I shall miss him terribly.

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