Will We Ever See the Likes of McNicholas at the State House Again?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Anyone who spent time at the Massachusetts State House knew Kevin McNicholas, a radio newsman who died of cancer on Thanksgiving Day.

I knew Kevin. We chatted every now and then, but he was not a friend of mine, I am sorry to say. I admired him for his savvy and for the monastic devotion that he, a lifelong bachelor, brought to the high calling of journalism.

I’d bump into Kevin in the hallways, when he’d be going about his work with an unmistakable intensity, and on the steps outside the General Hooker entrance on Beacon Street, where he’d be taking a cigarette break. Kevin was never unfriendly. But he was never a schmoozer either. He did not feel the need to shoot the breeze with every dope who wandered by.

Though only 61 years of age when he died, Kevin was an old-fashioned newsman in the best sense of the term. He knew all the personalities and all of the issues cold. He could recall the details of a 40-year-old event as well as something that happened four days ago.

Kevin was also old fashioned in the way he enjoyed his cigarettes. He was my contemporary, but he sort of reminded me of my father, an unfiltered Pall Mall man, God rest his soul, in the way he loved his smokes, and how he smiled slightly when he lit up, and how he smoked ’em down to the nubbs.

Because of his long tenure at the State House and his unfailing grasp of the historical record, his fellow reporters and many others rightly considered Kevin the building’s “institutional memory.”

If what Kevin held in his brain could have been preserved electronically, it would have taken up multiple discs, and everyone who cares about what goes on at the State House, including me, would have gladly paid the asking price for “McNicholas Remembers, the Complete Boxed Set.”

When asked to contemplate our mortality, most of us say we hope to have somehow “made a difference” by the time we come to the end of our days.

Kevin was one of those good souls who indeed made a difference. And he did it the old-fashioned way: by quietly and effectively practicing his trade in the same place for many years, by adhering faithfully to his personal and professional standards, and by treating everyone he encountered along the way fairly and kindly. That’s really something.

No comments:

Post a Comment