Bob Kalish, who wrote the “Over Easy” column for the Coastal Journal edition of The Forecaster, is retiring from journalism after 60 years. Chance Viles / Coastal Journal

Veteran writer and journalist Bob Kalish has penned his final “Over Easy” column for the Forecaster’s Coastal Journal Edition, and is now looking forward to having no writing deadlines to meet for the first time in 60 years.

“In a few weeks, I’ll be 81,” Kalish said. “I want to see what it’ll be like to not write.”

Kalish’s final submission, headlined “Fashion Forward” about how baby boomers ushered in a style of pants, appeared in print June 18 with little fanfare. In fact, Kalish only notified his editors that it was his final column after he turned it in.

Kalish saw his byline in print for the first time when he was just 8 years old. That article about a comic book he’d read, written for his day camp newspaper, was the first step in a long career in journalism that took him through the United States, to Thailand and the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame.

Kalish had an early start but his path to a full-time career had a couple of detours.

The first was after he graduated from high school, when he joined the U.S. Coast Guard.

“At that time I was confused. I didn’t get the whole system of life: get a job, work, get married and have kids. It didn’t move me,” he said.

After a few years in active service, Kalish studied journalism at the University of Missouri, not far from his birthplace of St. Louis, graduating in 1963.

After drifting for a bit, he found himself working for the Daily Variety, what is now Variety magazine, covering the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and Hollywood. He soon got fed up with the “abhorrent” personalities of Hollywood business people, he said, and left for Chicago with a plan to join the Merchant Marines.

He never ended up serving on the ocean, however, because upon arriving in Chicago he met his first wife. The couple moved to Bangkok, where he worked as a war correspondent for a friend’s magazine.

“Back then, the only thing people knew about Bangkok was that it was close to Vietnam,” Kalish recalled.

While there, he made a friend who was from Maine. Wanting something new, Kalish and his then-wife moved to the Pine Tree State in the mid-1970s.

He divorced, remarried, moved around and taught writing related classes at the Brunswick Naval station and worked as a reporter The Times Record.

“My biggest story, I think, was the transition from the area from relying on the Yankee Nuclear Power Plant (in Wiscasset) when they closed it down in 1996,” Kalish said. “There was this time of figuring out how things would change and it was exciting.”

Kalish’s coworkers noted that he treated every story like it was going to be a Pulitzer Prize-winner, giving serious care and attention to small-town meetings, local events and other coverage in the Midcoast area of Maine.

“He brought the same level of importance and dignity to even the sleepy coastal beat in Alna, but nothing went on there,” Troy Bennett said, formally of The Times Record and now photographer for the Bangor Daily News.

Kalish stayed at The Times Record for about 10 years as a small-town reporter before taking a severance package when the paper was sold and then retired.

It was a good time for him to step back, he said, as journalism was then changing. While Kalish left as technology really began to make an impact on the trade with social media, he recalled the first time he realized that reporting as he knew it was about to change.

“A bunch of press people were on this cruise,” Kalish said. “At the Times Record we were using film cameras, but we noticed the Press Herald had switched to digital.”

He recalled the feeling of awe when beaten by the speed of new tech, seeing that the Press Herald had its stories and photos out and published online before The Times Record team even made it back to the newsroom.

“That was the beginning of it, and we were slow to change,” Kalish said. “I remember when we started having televisions at our desks to stay up to date; that is even dated now, though.”

He was inducted into the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame in 2015 for his years of reporting in small coastal towns.

Bennett, who was a board member at the time of the 2015 Hall of Fame induction, said it made sense, given the care Kalish took.

“Bob never said he was too good for this, was never depressed, he just showed up at work every day and afforded everyone we worked with the same amount of dignity and importance,” Bennett said.

Kalish recalled the memory fondly, not expecting to win the award.

The “Over Easy” column was a bridge between news reporting and more personal writing, Kalish said. The column has been about everything from what makes a good neighbor to diners to defending cigarette smokers, and he often took introspective looks into his daily life.

“I really liked the format of the personal essay, where people could write about themselves in a story candidly. For me, it was all about curiosity. Sitting down to write, not knowing what you’d end up with,” Kalish said.

“Bob is certainly leaving a void,” John Swinconeck, executive editor of The Forecaster papers and The Times Record, said. “I’ll certainly miss his writing – particularly his humor. He’s been a positive force in the Midcoast, and the region is a better place because of him.”

While he’s happy to be done with the newspaper business, Kalish said he has plans to continue his creative writing in some form, although he has no plans to publish anything.

“I think about what there is to do, what is left to do in the years I have left. What can I do? All I know is to write,” he said.

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