C.W. Gusewelle reads 'On the Way to Other Country'
Charles W. Gusewelle, a legendary writer for The Kansas City Star whose columns captivated generations of readers, died Tuesday at 83.
Gusewelle stepped out of his role as a weekly columnist earlier this year, telling readers in July: “This friendship with you, my readers — born out of decades of sharing my loves, losses and adventures — has been an immeasurable gift.”
Gusewelle joined the staff of The Star as a general assignment reporter in 1955, the same year he graduated from Westminster College. He became an editorial writer on foreign affairs in 1966 and from 1976-79 served as foreign editor.
Gusewelle left that position to become an associate editor and columnist. The Missouri Press Association named him daily columnist of the year in 1984, 1985 and 1987.
He continued to write for The Star until earlier this year.
“Kansas City journalism has lost one of its greatest voices,” said Mike Fannin, The Star’s editor and vice president. “We lived vicariously through his columns and travels. He was our Hemingway, and his work is there to be discovered by generations of new fans. We will never forget him or his beautiful words.”
Gusewelle traveled around the world on assignment for The Star, to Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Western and Eastern Europe and the former U.S.S.R. From 1984-86 he wrote his column three times a week from France and from Dakar, Senegal.
Gusewelle was the American leader of a joint expedition in 1991 of the entire 2,734-mile length of the Lena River in Siberia. He then wrote, produced and narrated a 90-minute documentary of that journey called “A Great Current Running.”
In 1997 Gusewelle wrote and narrated a documentary about Kansas City called “This Place Called Home,” which won a regional Emmy award. His documentary, “Water & Fire: A Story of the Ozarks,” premiered in 2000 on Kansas City Public Television and was judged best documentary and best in show in a competition among more than 70 U.S. public television stations.
Readers of his column were endeared by stories about and reflections on Rufus, the beloved Brittany spaniel bird dog, “the orange cat,” Mickey, and a whole host of animals including Rufus’s sons and many other cats that shared his address.
He also wrote about squirrels, birds, foxes and other creatures that amused him both at home in the city and at his cabin in the country. A collection of Gusewelle’s columns called “The Rufus Chronicle: Another Autumn” was published by The Kansas City Star books in 1996 and later reissued by Ballantine Books.
Gusewelle’s reporting and fiction were published in Harper’s, American Heritage and The Paris Review, among other magazines and journals. He received The Paris Review’s Aga Khan Prize for fiction in 1977. In 1978, his story, “Horst Wessel,” was published in the Pushcart Prize III anthology of American writing and in 1985 his essay, “The Winds of Ruin,” was published in the anthology A Sense of History: The Best Writing from the Pages of American Heritage.
In recent years, he wrote short stories that appeared in The Star on Christmas Day.
Gusewelle wrote 21 books and was inducted in 2000 into the Writers Hall of Fame of America. In 2007 he was inducted into the Missouri Press Association’s Newspaper Hall of Fame.
He leaves his wife, the former Katie Jane Ingels of Jefferson City, and two daughters, Anne and Jennie — all of whom had roles in Gusewelle’s stories.