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Randall Shields: ‘Life has been good’

Wenzel korrie.jpg

Randall Shields, publisher of The Daily Republic during the early 1990s, has died of pancreatic cancer. The longtime newspaperman’s last deadline came Friday, Sept. 13. He was 68.

Shields led The Daily Republic from 1990 to 1993 before taking a similar position in Missouri. He later became publisher of the Daily Reporter in Greenfield, Ind., a position he held for 17 years. He retired in 2014 as vice president of Home News Enterprises Printing.

He is survived by his wife, Patrice, and four children.

In July, as he was being moved into hospice care, Shields sent an email to numerous acquaintances. It was titled “An update, status and some thoughts.”

“Thank you again for those who have reached out to Patrice, our children and I during this difficult time,” he wrote. “The journey forward is uncertain, and assumed to be growing more difficult. We are in a good place, with good care and our children close by. …

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“Life has been good.”

I was hired by Shields as a sports reporter in 1991. I was young, nervous and woefully inexperienced.

I remember pretty much everything about my interview that day. It was the first time I was ever near a man who was wearing shiny dress shoes, suspenders and a starched white shirt that lit up the room. He looked like he should have been working on Wall Street.

In hindsight, it’s odd that a publisher would take the time to conduct a job interview with a beginner sports reporter, but that was Randall’s style.

He was good at the business side of the operation; as far as I know, he was never a reporter, but he had an inquiring mind. Nearly every day, he would stop by my desk and ask about the goings-on in the sports world.

I’d see him coming, so I would quickly adjust my shirt, sit up straight and act busy. Back then, that’s what you did when the publisher approached. To a 22-year-old rookie, a 40-year-old boss in a power suit seemed larger than life.

During his days in Mitchell, he wrote with a bright blue pen with runny ink – better to write notes on newsprint. To this day, I am rarely without my own runny blue pen, and that is an absolute tribute to the man. Business managers and administrative assistants in two states have gotten in the habit of stocking boxes of those pens so I never run out.

Anyway, Shields hired me. I couldn’t believe it – I got a job at a daily newspaper near my hometown. Writing about sports.

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Unbelievable.

Just a few months before I stumbled into the place, he hired young Cheryl Sieler. She and I have been married 26 years, so it seems to have all worked out.

I’m 50 – 10 years older than Shields when I first met him. As unprecedented challenges emerge in the newspaper industry, I sometimes catch myself squinting blankly into the distance or staring into a cup of coffee, thinking about old bosses and wishing for some managerial gem, some sage advice, that perhaps they tried to teach me but I just didn’t notice.

Randall wasn’t the publisher who influenced me the most, but as my first publisher, he was influential nonetheless. I remember how stunned we were to hear, back in 1993, that he was leaving The Daily Republic. And even though he was in hospice care these last few weeks, I was stunned again Tuesday, when I heard he is gone.

After Shields sent his upbeat yet sad email announcing his move to hospice, I sent a note back, accompanied by a photo of my family.

“Thank you for hiring me and putting me on the right path,” I wrote.

The dying man replied: “We all live on through those we have met and had some influence. If your life as a husband, father and businessman was in some way touched by me, I stand very proud.”

— Korrie Wenzel worked at The Daily Republic from 1991 to 2014, the final four years as publisher. He now is publisher of the Herald in Grand Forks, N.D.

Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.

He is a member of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. board of directors and, in the past, has served on boards for Junior Achievement, the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, United Way, Empire Arts Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center and Crimestoppers.

As publisher, Wenzel oversees news, advertising and business operations at the Herald, as well as the newspaper's opinion content.

In the past, Wenzel was sports editor for 14 years at The Daily Republic of Mitchell, S.D., before becoming editor and, eventually, publisher.

Wenzel can be reached at 701-780-1103, or via Twitter via @korriewenzel.
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