The Star and our readers lost a dear friend last week.
Writer Bob Sigman — husband, father, longtime journalist and cherished colleague — died Aug. 11 after a short illness. He was 88.
He spent almost 30 years of his 54-year Star career writing for the editorial page. After a brief retirement in 2001, he led the Opinion Page for the Johnson County Sun, until it closed in 2011.
And since 913 launched in 2012, he wrote an opinion column on the third Wednesday of the month. Sigman’s voice in his 913 pieces reflected the gentle but principled man he was. He wrote about state politics in a time of vitriol but he did not succumb. Instead he was clear-eyed and factual, making his opinions heard without need for attacks.
His career had impact. He won numerous awards and honors for his work in bringing light to a broken criminal justice system.
After news of his death spread, tributes to Sigman poured in to Laura Hockaday, a former Star reporter who retired as society editor in 2000.
Sigman’s former colleagues touched on his award-winning career but mainly on what a good man he was.
“Bob was a quiet giant of the craft,” wrote former Editorial Page Editor Miriam Pepper. “Graceful, powerful and thoughtful in one. I miss him.
“Truly one of the finest men of The Star,” Pepper said.
Hockaday recalled how devoted he was to his wife, Frances, who died in 1997 of Alzheimer’s.
“This insidious disease hit her at only 52 years old,” Laura wrote to colleagues. “Bob took care of her at home as long as possible, then went every day to the nursing home to feed her breakfast before going to The Star. He never remarried and continued to live in their home in Leawood.”
Sigman grew up in rural, far western Johnson County, “a descendant of the Quakers who had settled Prairie Center, a town that was lost when the U.S. government built Sunflower munitions plant,” wrote Peg Nichols of Olathe, whose late husband was a copy editor at The Star. Sigman’s mother was the sister of Nichols’ son-in-law’s grandmother.
“My last conversation with Bob, not too long ago, was about the deteriorating condition of the bridge over Captain Creek, in far western Johnson County, that led to the Prairie Center Cemetery,” Nichols wrote.
“His only career aspiration, even as a youth, was to be an editorial writer,” Nichols wrote.
Charles Hammer of Shawnee recalled that Sigman was a journalist during heady times — the civil rights movement, the moon landing, Kennedy and King assassinations, Vietnam protests. “The Star was huge, with many pages and many reporters to cover events,” Hammer wrote. “Bob was among the best of us doing that job.”
Jim Steele, who went on to a storied career, becoming part of the famed Barlett and Steele investigative team and a household name among journalists, was just starting out when he worked with Sigman.
“Bob was a very good friend to me as a young reporter,” Steele wrote. “He recommended me as a stringer for a couple of national publications, and as I recall he and I collaborated on a couple of those efforts.
“Not all reporters were so kind to the young guys. What a class act he was.”
As former reporter David Wilkinson put it: “He was truly a professional whose work honored journalism as well as the best traditions of The Star. Above all, he was a very decent human being.”
He will be missed.
| Grace Hobson, The Star
On the Web
For services, see his obituary at kansascity.com