As word of Dick Locher's passing spread among cartoonists Monday, one sentiment rang clear. "You will not meet anyone who has anything bad to say about him," said Mike Thompson.
The proof of that was in the outpouring of admiration for Locher, who died August 6 after a years-long battle with Parkinson's disease.
"Dick was a consummate gentleman and a true professional," wrote Ted Rall. "He epitomized grace under pressure and class."
"What a class act he was," mused Ben Sargent in an email. "Dick was godfather to all of us in the trade; universally loved and will be universally missed."
Locher drew political cartoons for The Chicago Tribune for 40 years, winning a Pulitzer (as well as a half dozen other major journalism awards), at the same time he was writing and drawing the daily Dick Tracy comic strip. Along with his wife Mary, he was deeply involved in the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, and enthusiastically supportive of cartoonists everywhere.
"Dick has always been a font of encouragement, advice and good humor," wrote Scott Stantis, who now works at Locher's old newspaper. "When I was lucky enough to be named editorial cartoonist here at the Chicago Tribune one of the very first people to reach out and congratulate me was Dick Locher. I first met Dick years earlier at an AAEC convention. As a wet-behind-the-ears cartoonist I was in awe of this giant of our industry but, like a true gentleman, he put me at ease and we became fast friends."
Indeed, a number of cartoonists cited Locher as the main reason they joined the association. "Dick Locher is THE cartoonist that convinced me to attend my first AAEC convention," posted Milt Priggee.
Steve Artley concurred, "Back when one needed a sponsor to join the AAEC, Dick was mine in 1984, and he introduced me at the convention in OK City. A wonderful, talented, generous man of real class."
Steve Greenberg described meeting Locher at his first cartoonist convention in Phoenix in 1979: "I didn't know anybody and decided to carry my copy of the AAEC Notebook in plain sight. Dick was the one who called out, 'Hey, I recognize that notebook!' and invited me over to meet him, Mary and the other cartoonists sitting by them. That was how I felt welcomed into the AAEC."
"Such a great colleague and friend to us all," stated Jeff Parker. "Plus, Dick would tell the greatest stories."
"My favorite Locherism?" wrote R.C. Harvey. "If you did something he approved of, he'd look you in the eye and say: Good job — take the rest of the day off."
In a post on the AAEC listserv Steve Kelley observed, "It's interesting — and telling — that in recollecting Dick Locher we all remember what a thoughtful, decent and generous human being he was almost to the exclusion of praising his work."
Kelley continued, "I grew up reading his cartoons in The Richmond Times-Dispatch and just loved his artwork — the race cars and biplanes in particular. Brilliant use of contrast and fabulous confidence of line work."
"One of the great joys of having entered our profession is that I am able to say Dick Locher was a friend and colleague."
“We all marveled at Dick’s talent,” Steve Breen told The Washington Post's Michael Cavna. “He was as skilled at painting and sculpture as he was at cartooning. A lot of us try other mediums, but Dick truly mastered these things."
Breen, along with Mike Thompson, was one of the early recipients of The John Locher Memorial Award, the annual prize for promising college editorial cartoonists. Created in honor of Dick and Mary's son, who died suddenly in 1986 at age 25, the award — along with the Locher's mentoring and support — helped launch over a half-dozen successful cartooning careers, including several Pulitzer Prizer winners and finalists.
Dick Locher's final appearance at an AAEC convention was via video to present the 2015 Locher Award to Doo Lee. As the visage of Dick and Mary appeared on the large screen during the closing banquet, wild applause broke out and the packed hall leapt to their feet cheering. Host Nate Beeler, the 2002 Locher Award winner, held aloft the laptop camera so the Lochers could see the standing ovation.
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A service for Dick Locher is set for 9:30am Friday, August 11, at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 36 N. Ellsworth St., Naperville. Visitation is scheduled the day before, Thursday, from 3 to 8pm at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home, 44 S. Mill St., Naperville, IL