Remembering Kevin Carmody
At Laurel Hill Creek, October 2004, following the Pittsburgh conference.
Shared joy is double joy.
Shared sorrow is half sorrow.
With this thought, we invite you to read the following memories of Kevin from SEJ members, friends and colleagues far and wide. If you'd like to contribute or have photographs you'd like us to post here, please email Cindy MacDonald, SEJ's web content manager.
It is with sad hearts we share tragic news of the unexpected death of Kevin Carmody, March 9, 2005, in Austin, Texas.
Kevin was, as so many of you know, a board member of SEJ from its inception, up through this year when he had taken on the role, for the second time, of serving as co-chair for the annual conference. Kevin's service to journalism and this community is unparalleled. Kevin was a much beloved friend to many, many people. He is survived by his wife, Pat Dockery, and his daughter, Siobhan.
Here is a sampling of Kevin's work:
- "Toxic Waters," his 2002 series in the Austin American-Statesman about toxic contamination at a popular Texas summer resort (free registration required).
- "Asbestos Exposure," his 2001 special report for the Statesman on workers' risks from hazardous asbestos removal projects (free registration required).
- In 1999, Kevin won a George Polk award for "Deadly Silence," a series in the Daily Southtown in Illinois which revealed how hundreds involved in the World War II Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb were unwittingly exposed to toxic beryllium. You can read the award citation and see the company he kept here.
- "It's a Jungle Out There," his 1995 Columbia Journalism Review rumination on the challenges environmental reporters face.
As another tribute to our friend and mentor, SEJ has named for Kevin its print investigative category in our annual SEJ Awards for Reporting on the Environment contest.
Beth Parke, SEJ Executive Director, and Perry Beeman, SEJ President
I first met Kevin over a dozen years ago when he was a reporter at Charlottesville's local paper, the Daily Progress. He was one of the few visionaries on the staff there, which locals call "The Daily Regress". Kevin came to meet me at the Jones Foundation because he shared a vision with a number of other people about creating a professional organization for reporters working on environmental issues. His analysis convinced me that it was an important venture, and his logic armed me with arguments to take to our board of trustees that wound up having the Jones Foundation provide support for SEJ for a decade.
Kevin moved on from there to Chicago and on to Austin. We kept in touch and on occasion he would call me about the science behind stories or I would call/email him about questions on environment and journalism. When he called, it was never with a trivial question. It was about a big issue, how to find scientists who knew something relevant to his stories...who could interpret data on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Barton Springs, or where SEJ might look for long-term funding.
I was looking forward, with great anticipation, to seeing Kevin in his own environment, in Austin. These hopes are dashed. But I would hope still we will spend at least some time there remembering Kevin and the beast that he helped create, SEJ.
Environmental Health Sciences
I've known Kevin for nearly 20 years now. I worked as environment program director at the Scientists' Institute for Public Information in New York City in the mid-80s when I first got phone calls from a then ambitious and enterprising young environmental reporter working for the newspaper in Beaumont, Tex.
Kevin called SIPI many times looking for scientists to be sources for whatever story he was working on. I began to refer to him as this quintessential environmental reporter — the guy I would point out to others as an example of how environmental journalism can be done right.
Then, in the late 80s I finally met Kevin and witnessed firsthand his quiet leadership abilities and unsurpassed integrity as he and numerous other leading environmental reporters created the Society of Environmental Journalists.
I've been involved with SEJ from its beginning and currently serve as its conference manager. In a group blessed with leaders bursting with integrity, Kevin still stood out.
He was a founding board member and remained on the board, being re-elected several times, until his death.
He was also the only SEJ member to twice serve as the group's annual conference chair, and was in the midst of organizing SEJ's 15th annual conference in Austin later this year when he died.
Kevin, more than anyone, embodied the group's heart and soul. His presence will never be replaced at SEJ.
SEJ will still come to Austin, of course, but it just won't be the same without Kevin. We will find many ways to honor and remember him in the coming weeks and months, including memorials at the conference, but for right now there's just this huge hole in our hearts.
I have so many fond memories of Kevin and I look forward to sharing them with y'all in the future. It's just too hard right now.
I'd just like to say that my love and deepest condolences go out to his wife, Pat, and daughter, Siobhan. I wish we could find some way to help ease their pain in this time of great suffering.
SEJ Conference Manager
What sticks in my mind about Kevin is his laugh. That deep, sincere laugh straight from his gut, even if it was just a chuckle. I can't think about him without hearing his laugh. And the way his eyes shone when each year he'd pull me aside and show me his latest family photos.
He was a first-class journalist, and did much to help many. He was a good friend.
I will miss him.
I believe Kevin's ties to Milwaukee led him to recruit me into SEJ back in 1991. He even talked me into volunteering to write for (Green) Beat, and like those who followed him, was a benevolent boss.
Thanks for the introduction into this fine group of people, Kevin. Write on, folks, and remember.
Environment Reporter/Producer, Wisconsin Public Radio
Wow. Where do I begin? Kevin struck me as one of the most down-to-earth, approachable people in SEJ way back when — get this — there once was a time I actually was shy around other SEJ members, largely because I was in awe of them. I joined the group in 1994. Kevin impressed me by how determined he was at his suburban daily outside of Chicago, how he held his own against reporters from some larger and more prestigious publications. We grew a little closer hanging out together at the Tucson conference and at Portland, when we chatted from time to time about his experiences in adopting a daughter from overseas — China, I think. I raised the subject because my wife and I have contemplated the same over the years. He impressed me with the look in his eyes as he glowed about her. He showed me how much heart he had to make that kind of commitment, as well as the heart he put into his work as a journalist.
Late one night at the Baltimore conference, while in the main hotel bar with me and both of us having consumed at least one beer more than we should have, Kevin told me something to the effect of how he views me and himself as being among a corps of environmental writers at mid-sized newspapers who contribute greatly to America's bread-and-butter coverage of the beat, whether we realize it or not. His point was that it's not always about aspiring to work in the biggest city that'll hire you, that there are victories to be won where you're at and our role in reaching out to a different segments of mainstream America, wherever we are, shouldn't be overlooked.
God bless him. He is the second journalist friend of mine to die since late January and the first to pass away so unexpectedly.
Kevin was a founding member of the SEJ board and his service in that capacity is going to be difficult to sum, but I hope board members who shared the job with Kevin longer than I will chime in and take their best shot.
I can speak only to the last few years. What astounded me about Kevin was how he came to every meeting with the accumulated intelligence of a dozen years at the job and the enthusiasm of a freshman. He took new joy in each accomplishment that lifted our organization just a little bit higher.
In meetings, Kevin's interjections always raised the level of discourse. He had something to add to most debates, but never lost his cool (which is saying a lot in the context of most boards, certainly ours). At crucial times he served as a bridge.
Kevin was the kind of guy who'd give you his last cigarette. I had the pleasure of testing that a few times, butting into his butt breaks during the board's all day Saturday grind sessions. I knew I'd return to the meeting calmer and wiser.
Independent Writer, Speaker & Educator, Victoria, BC Canada
SEJ Board Member
I am sure I didn't know Kevin as well as many of you. And I simply can't imagine the pain his family is feeling. Jay is so right that we must find a way for our SEJ family to reach his family, and maybe help them a little by letting them know how much we all cared about Kevin.
But I'll just add my little story:
Kevin is the reason I joined SEJ...a long time ago. I was still in college. It was probably 1990 or early 1991, because I was just getting ready to leave school for the real world at the Gazette.
Kevin came to speak at "journalism week" at West Virginia University — an event usually run by corporate PR folks, as WVU has its PR school in with actual journalism. He talked about SEJ. At the time, I was trying to learn to be an environmental reporter, and didn't have much in the way of examples or mentors. I joined right away, and the rest is history...
Ken Ward Jr.
Staff Writer, The Charleston Gazette
SEJ Freedom of Information Task Force Chair
To the SEJ family:
I'm sure we are all in a swirl of emotions today with this tragic news of our good friend and colleague, Kevin.
I wanted to say, while I try to deal with this mix of emotion, that I know many of us loved and respected Kevin. His impact on our family is so great that it will only be known in generations to come.
Kevin called me in 1993 to encourage me to run for the SEJ board. He made that call even though I had won the job at the KC Star that he had interviewed for. He thought first of SEJ and his profession.
We spent hours and hours together since. We co-chaired the conference in St. Louis. We helped each other on stories. We shared several bourbons and beers. Kevin always stood behind me and SEJ and I stood behind him.
By coincidence I attended a funeral on Wednesday, only to be confronted Thursday with the news of Kevin's death. I remember thinking on Wednesday that this is certainly true — One man's life touches so many. The sad part is that person probably doesn't understand his impact, at leaast not at the time.
Kevin touched us all, even those SEJ members and journalists who never met him. I thank God for him. And my thoughts and prayers are with his family in Austin.
Reporter, Kansas City Star
The news of Kevin's death yesterday was an incredible shock. I worked with Kevin on SEJ matters for more than 16 years. He was one of the original co-founders and first board members of SEJ. For all of us, SEJ was then, and continues to be, a labor of love.
In no particular order here are some of my memories of Kevin....the tall, lanky reporter with cowboy boots, oversized belt buckle and blue jeans who brimmed with enthusiasm about environmental reporting and the importance of the beat....his passion for investigative reporting, fishing, convertibles, a good story and a late-night drink in the bar....his love of international travel and his tales of trips to Ireland, Vietnam, China and other countries....his intensity while pursuing a story and his determination to get every detail right....his zest for fishing and his quiet disappearances at the end of SEJ board meetings to visit a favorite fishing hole....putting together the first issue of SEJournal with Kevin and Bowman Cox in the fall of 1990 when everything was new and future possibilities were bounded only by our collective energy and determination....his commitment and fierce devotion to SEJ over 16 years....his pragmatic yet principled way of dealing with whatever contentious issues that arose....his easy-going demeanor which made everyone who knew him describe him as "a really nice guy."
I cried yesterday when I heard the news because I lost a very valued colleague and friend. The SEJ community lost a passionate advocate for environmental journalism. My heart goes out to Pat, Siobhan and his family.
Director, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Michigan State University
SEJ Founding President
I can contribute to people's testimony on Kevin's warmth. Meeting Kevin at the Pittsburgh conference made a lasting impression on me, although I doubt he would even remember my name. I met him when I joined the Austin 2005 planning table. I had no idea what to expect when I sat down, although being a pessimist I did expect to have my ideas passed over in favor of those who are well known faces at SEJ or who have more experience as journalists. I sat down, wondering at what moment the ushers would politely ask me to leave. As it turns out, the last open seat at the table was next to Kevin. My luck! Kevin turned to me and gave me a big, warm, tail-wagging hello, enveloping my hand in a sturdy, palm-to-palm handshake. While I struggled to get over my shock, Kevin peppered me with questions, who was I, who did I work for, what my reporting interests were, etc. As we talked — even over such a brief exchange — I knew that before me was an amazingly good-hearted, decent person. It was all over his face.
What also impressed me about Kevin was that as people threw out ideas for the Austin conference, Kevin maintained a sense of inclusiveness at the table: all ideas were considered and duly noted for Austin. As a result, the ideas flowed. No doubt Kevin has laid the foundation for an absolutely kickin' conference for Austin '05.
At the Pittsburgh conference Kevin gave me a sticker, a bright orange Texas longhorn head — a mascot of sorts for Austin 2005. When I returned to the conference I immediately placed it at the front center of my computer. I placed it there to serve as a kind of touchstone, a reminder of what I am reaching for as a writer.
As I write, the Texas longhorn stares out at me. Thank you so much, Kevin.
I don't think there's any way that words can capture the life, the spirit and legacy of Kevin Carmody. He was an outsized person in every sense of that word, and not just because he was so damn tall. Kevin was passionate about everything he did. When he believed in something — a story, a person, or an organization — he made a complete commitment to it.
Mike Mansur's story about how Kevin roped him into SEJ resonated with me because I had a virtually identical experience when I attended my first SEJ conference in Chattanooga. I didn't know who Kevin was, but he looked me up, knocked on my hotel door and invited me out for a beer (maybe it was a bourbon, I can't remember), knowing I didn't know many people yet in SEJ. Kevin, of course, knew everyone, and before long I did, too, thanks to him. Since then there have been many more beers and many more discussions: about stories, SEJ, politics, families and everything else under the sun. Kevin believed deeply in his work, and he loved his family even more than he loved cigars or fishing — and believe me, he loved fishing. (As proof, I've got one of his many fishing poles in my garage.)
Kevin's work, in Chicago, Austin and elsewhere, is his most visible legacy, and it is extraordinary by any measure. His project stories represented the highest aspirations of a profession that so often, and increasingly, settles for far less. They were extremely difficult to report and write, and he had to overcome many obstacles (internally at the newspaper as well as externally) to get them into print, and to defend them afterward. Of course that didn't deter him, it only deepened his commitment to doing the most ambitious, most difficult stories he could. No fact was too small to escape his interest, no expert too obscure. When he was working on a big toxics story he would invariably call and plumb the depths my Rolodex so extensively (and I know he did the same thing to other reporters) that after a while I started calling him instead. Kevin truly was the go-to guy for environmental health investigations in our business.
But of course Kevin's legacy extends far beyond the stories he wrote. He is a giant of our group, SEJ. A board member from the very start (he invariably got the most votes whenever his seat and others were up for re-election), Kevin knew the board meetings were just the place for tying up loose ends, and that the real work was done between meetings. He didn't care a whit about hearing his own voice, which is why when he did speak up at a meeting everyone listened intently. He was a dedicated editor of SEJournal, an imaginative conference chair, and a visionary about this group and what it can accomplish. When he inherited some money, he immediately turned it over to SEJ so it could be used to bring more journalists to the annual conference. He knew that SEJ, fundamentally, is a network of people with a common aim, a common passion, and he focused his formidable energies on building that network one person at a time.
Many things mattered to Kevin, but what seemed to matter most were his wife, Pat, and especially his young daughter Siobhan, whom he talked about incessantly. He reveled in her various development stages, and loved to share little stories about her: a joke she told him, a long day they spent fishing together, her interest in exploring their backyard and the fields beyond.
We're all going to have to adjust to life without Kevin, but his family's adjustment will be the greatest by far.
Kevin, we miss you already, and we won't forget you. //Dan
Environment Writer, Newsday
SEJ Board Member
I plan to eventually write a more considered remembrance of Kevin for the memory book. Let me just say for now that those of you who recalled his eager and firm handshake, genuine interest in your career, his fondness for people, his heavy interest in fishing, his firm grasp of environmental issues and environmental science, his fantastic leadership of SEJ, were right on. Kevin's role in SEJ was as pure a testimony to this group as we'll ever see. The comments already shared on this listserve, on the Austin guestbook and in phone calls make that abundantly clear. Many, many of us are still raw with emotion today, searching for ways to help Kevin's family, ways to grieve, ways to take it all in. We will be for some time. We are blessed to be part of a group that will help us all through a very difficult grieving period.
Environment Writer, The Des Moines Register
Kevin's and my life crossed paths many times. Encountering him was invariably a fine experience. All my best to all who knew him.
Kevin was a friend, colleague and mentor who represented the best of a generation of print journalists. As a friend, he had a ready smile during a break from a Society of Environmental Journalists board meeting while attempting to show me how to flycast off rocks in Victoria, British Columbia a few years ago , even after I'd snagged lures — his lures — several times. I'll also treasure my memories of shared cigars and high-priced whiskies that followed those meetings. As a colleague, Kevin had a clear vision of the future of journalism and the need to train both environment reporters and those on other beats how to better deal with the complicated environmental issues that he was facing every day. We often exchanged tips on how to better cover a story or just good ideas for stories. As a mentor, Kevin shared his dogged determination to get to the nut of an environmental issue, wading through the statistics, the science, the politics, the lies, until the truth was finally bared.
Let me express my condolences to Kevin's wife, Pat, his daughter Siobhan, and to his family of reporters and editors at the American-Statesman.
Staff Writer, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune
SEJ Board Member
I met Kevin only once — at the Pittsburgh convention last year. We hit it off immediately. He told me all about his plans for the Austin conference — such conviction and enthusiasm for his work and this organization! I'm sure there will be a memorial to Kevin at this year's event. But I'd like to suggest that these e-mails become a part of it. And maybe they can also be shared with his family.
I'm sure they'd like to know in what high regard Kevin was held by all his colleagues — however long they'd known him.
Reporter/Producer, WCPN ideastream
Dear SEJ Friends,
My heart aches with the news of Kevin's death. It was an obituary I never wanted to read. I kept thinking this cannot be true, until I saw the photo.
I had the honor of serving on the SEJ board as treasurer with Kevin from 1996-2001, and knowing him from SEJ's beginnings to my last board meeting in Austin January 2001.
From where I sat, which was right next to Kevin at that last board meeting, Kevin Carmody had a clear vision about the future of environmental journalism. Kevin Carmody had a clear idea about how the Society of Environmental Journalists could grow.
Did you know that Kevin's aunt, who inspired him to his career, gave SEJ a gift in her estate? This was the first estate gift and the first sizable gift SEJ received for our endowment. One of Kevin's goals was to create financial stability for the organization that he cherished.
Kevin Carmody also had a clear vision about being a Dad and a husband. Did you know, the only SEJ board meeting I ever knew him to miss was when he went to pick up his daughter in China? Did she ever make him smile! Together with his beautiful bride Pat, he seemed so full of life.
I find it heartbreakingly painful to realize that Kevin's vision for his own future was blurred or somehow obscured. It just does not make sense.
Count me in among those in SEJ who will work to capture and sustain Kevin's legacy and vision. He had it. I saw it. I benefited from it. I miss him.
Sara Thurin Rollin
Kevin: a big smile, a warm handshake or hug, cowboy boots and big belt buckles. Mild mannered yet persuasive, dogged in pursuit of a good story and getting it right, keen intellect.
We didn't share cigars or fishing stories — many of you enjoyed more time with him than we had. Yet we both looked forward to our yearly SEJ meetings and seeing and talking to Kevin. We valued his love for environmental reporting and held him up in our environmental journalism classes as a shining example of a dedicated reporter. Our students read some of his stories: an old one that he published years ago in Columbia Journalism Review called "It's a Jungle Out There," about environmental reporting, and his newer series on Barton Springs issues. We also valued and tried to emulate in some way his dedication to SEJ and its ideals.
Like everyone else, we were shocked and saddened by his death. Although he wasn't a close friend, we felt like he was. We knew we could always call on Kevin for help if we needed it, going back to the earliest days of SEJ. We will miss his energy, dedication to environmental journalism, and his great warmth. We feel his loss deeply. Our deepest sympathies go out to his wife and daughter.
Sharon and Ken Friedman
SEJ academic members
I served on the board with Kevin for the last six years and I'm having a hard time imagining what our meetings — and our organization — will be like without him. He was more than a rock for SEJ, he was up there on our Mt. Rushmore. He was a founding board member and the only member to serve in an elected board seat for the entire life of the organization — elected by his peers, by my count, at least five times — and he was, of course, along with Jim Detjen, the longest-serving board member in any capacity. Which means that when we needed historical perspective or a recollection of long-ago debates and decisions, we almost invariably turned to him, and he almost invariably retrieved what we were looking for from a well-organized back corner of his brain. Kevin was a huge and irreplaceable part of our institutional memory.
But we didn't just look to Kevin to help us remember SEJ's past. He was always a huge part of our present and our future. In 1995, when many founding board members had already stepped down, moved on to other things or just plain gotten burned out, Kevin stepped forward to be conference co-chair for the 1996 meeting in St. Louis, the most demanding job by far that any board member can take on. Then, nine years later, when he was the last elected man standing from that original board, he did it again — volunteering to be chair of this year's conference in his adopted hometown of Austin and shaking every tree in town to make it happen. He was determined, in his tireless way — or what we all thought was tireless, anyway — to make the Austin conference one of our best, and I have no doubt that he would have. Scratch that — I have no doubt that he will have, because his vision and energy will be reflected in everything that goes on there this fall.
Personally, I can't say I ever got to know Kevin real well. We worked side by side on the board, sometimes agreeing on tough issues, sometimes not, but always in the spirit of cooperation and dedication to the best interests of SEJ; we shared a whiskey after meetings, kicked around whatever town we were meeting in and occasionally even shared a hotel room, but as friendly and spirited as he was, he was also a very private person, not one to easily open up about his own life. Yet somehow he was always an important part not just of the business of the board and SEJ in general but also of its social fabric, that quality of warmth and welcome that goes beyond collegial friendliness and that has made being on the board so thoroughly enjoyable, and has made SEJ such an exceptional professional community. The board, and SEJ, will miss his presence tremendously. I will miss his presence tremendously.
Kevin's dedication and his longevity on the board certainly earned him the right to weigh in on any subject as often and as loudly as he liked, but he never exercised this right, he never injected himself and his thoughts and opinions into the discussion any more than any other member. In fact, he didn't speak very often at all at meetings. But when he did, what he had to say was always thoughtful and clear-headed, always advanced the discussion and always reflected a wisdom that belied his cowboy boot-wearing, cigar-smoking, whiskey-drinking, sneaking-out-early-to-go-fishing persona. Kevin's wisdom came from his 20+ years as one of the hardest noses on the beat, and one of the most dedicated and accomplished, from his deep and lasting commitment to SEJ as an organization, a community and a mission, and from his clear understanding of the relationship between the messy world of journalism and the even messier real world that all SEJ members have committed ourselves to report on accurately and without prejudice, but which we all are also part of. Which was important as anything else he brought to the meeting room. It's a precarious balancing act for all of us, but Kevin pulled it off remarkably well in his own life and for 15 years helped make sure that SEJ did too. And will continue to.
Kevin was also, by the way, the only board member ever to hit for the cycle, holding at one point or another every office on the board — President, VP for Programs, VP for Membership, Treasurer and Secretary. Which reflects not any personal ambition (because really, who wants to be Secretary or Treasurer?), or even his longevity on the board, so much as his willingness to step up and do whatever was needed of him at the time, and to do it seriously and well. Although not, of course, without a healthy degree of goofiness. I mean, who can take himself too seriously wearing those crazy fishing shirts?
I'm gonna dust off my cowboy boots and bring them to Austin — and I might even go out and get myself a big silver belt buckle and a shirt with fish on it and a tweed jacket to wear over it, too — and I'm gonna raise a glass, hit the dance floor at the Broken Spoke and kick it out one last time for Kevin. See y'all there.
Independent Radio Producer and Writer
SEJ Board Member
My deepest sympathies go to Kevin's wife, Pat, and his daughter, Siobhan. Like he was to so many others, Kevin was a friend and colleague. His energy was contagious as was his passion for journalism, the Society of Environmental Journalists, sharing information, fishing, and fun. He was a great man who will be so missed.
Correspondent, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA)
SEJ Board Secretary
Unlike some of you, I can't remember clearly when I first met Kevin. It just seems like he's always been there — and he has, at least for SEJ.
As many others have recalled so eloquently, he welcomed newcomers and was generous with his time and encouragement. I can say the same, from my early days attending conferences until the past four years working with him on the board.
On the board, despite his stature as one of the group's founders, he listened more than he spoke. When he did pipe up, he offered the benefit of his experience with modesty and humor. He sought to bridge differences; he was a steadying presence.
For all our time together, I must admit I didn't know Kevin well. That may say more about me than him, but I admired his seeming ability to live life to the fullest. He was clearly passionately devoted to environmental journalism — a no-holds barred, but painstakingly ethical reporter. Yet he also frequently found time to fish at our gatherings, and rented a Mustang convertible — just as committed, it appeared, to mix a little pleasure with business.
Yet he never shirked from duty. As a former conference chairman myself, I marveled that he was willing to take another turn in the box, indeed, seemed to relish the opportunity. The Austin conference promises to be — and no doubt will be, thanks to the people he's already rounded up — a smash.
I'm having a hard time picturing that conference, or board meetings, or SEJ itself without him. My heart aches. He's left us much too soon, but his spirit lingers. We must do all we can to sustain it. We will, I'm certain, find a fitting way in SEJ to honor his contributions to our craft, and to our journalistic family.
To his wife and daughter, to whom he meant so much more, I can only offer my deepest condolences. He was an inspiration, and a good man. He lives in our memories and in our commitment to carry on as no doubt he would have wanted us to.
The Baltimore Sun
SEJ Board Member
I don't remember what was on the agenda at SEJ's first board meeting. But I do remember Kevin. A small group of us had come together, united in the belief that we and other environmental journalists across the country were doing important work, and that we could perhaps benefit — personally and professionally — by meeting and sharing our experiences.
Kevin was there with a big handshake, friendly but also focused and intense. He became just as excited as the rest of us as we jabbered our way through that meeting and beyond. I knew right away that SEJ was off to a good start.
Kevin's doggedness resulted in many first-rate stories, but his work with others might be an even more important legacy. Despite his many years of service on the board and as an SEJ officer, he never forgot that it's the members of an organization who matter, not the organization itself.
My condolences to Kevin's family. You already know that he was conscientious, kind, and determined. I hope you also learn how much he meant to so many others, and what huge contributions he made with his life.
I will miss him. A lot.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
I first met Kevin two days before his daughter's birthday in August of 2000. We had met for lunch about an environmental story that I had hoped that he would write for me. He was so excited about her birthday party.
He was passionately involved in writing the series of asbestos stories for the Austin American-Statesman at the time. Eventually those stories changed the laws of Texas for the better to protect people from asbestos poisoning. Rather than the media simply reporting what the politicians do, Kevin proved by example that the media can change the laws.
Then, he started on my story about heavy metal and chemical poisoning of me and others. When September 11, 2001 came along, neither one of us knew if we would ever make it to the front page of the Sunday newspaper where it belonged. Unlike most of you reading this, I didn't know that the upper left corner of the Sunday newspaper was the ultimate placement for the biggest story of the week. In November of 2001, Kevin finally got us to the front page in the upper left corner of the Sunday newspaper. Like many of his other stories, his story was like dropping a bomb, so that one story ended up being about 10 including two more on the front page because once again Kevin had written the truth that certain parties went to great lengths to alter the evidence and hide the truth but Kevin kept uncovering the truth and publishing it.
Three years ago, I called Beth Parke because I wanted to honor Kevin by contributing to his greatest passion, besides his family, in my will. Beth and my attorney helped me to get everything set up to donate my assets when I die to SEJ in honor of Kevin. With great sadness for all of us, the gift will now be in his memory. However, as I was grieving his loss this morning, I thought of that song, "You Raise Me Up". Now that Kevin is no longer with us, he is raising us all up to be more than we can be or would have been if he had not touched our lives.
I have created an environmental foundation that will have a Web site unlike anything that exists to this day about investigating pollutants. There will be a memorium to Kevin on the web site, and I will share it with you when it is ready to be released on the Web.
For Kevin's colleagues, I hope that his spirit will raise each of you up to investigate more thoroughly and write with unquestionable scientific accuracy and flawless integrity as Kevin modeled for each of us every single day of his life. We are left here to strive to make a difference in the politics and the environment so that Kevin's adorable daughter, Siobhan, and all who follow behind us will have a clean enough and pure enough planet upon which they can thrive. I am counting on doing my part for all of the children like Siobhan, and I know that each of you environmental journalists will do the same because Kevin changed us all for the better with his wit, his passion, his integrity, his love for his family and friends, and his love for SEJ.
He was so excited that all of you were coming in October 2005 to be in his city for your annual conference. He will live in all of our hearts forever.
I heard the news about Kevin Carmody two days ago over a lousy cellfone in the high desert mountains and had to wait till now to get to a computer and read all these sad and amazing e-mails that make it true that he's gone. But his death remains unfathomable to me.
All this time I haven't stopped thinking about Kevin's temperament. He was an optimist. He was mellow. He was a man totally at home in his skin. He was gracious, generous and funny - he smiled at the cynical stuff but never lost his faith in peoples' better angels. As others have already described, he was a rock at SEJ board meetings - after we'd all circled round and round a tough decision, Kevin was the wise man who honed in right on target. After all those years turning over rocks, raking muck and making his editors proud, he was confident yet modest. His equanimity and longevity on the board showed all of us that it was possible to be superb at your day job and serve as a dedicated board member without showing the slightest sign of burnout. He did all that and still put his beloved wife and daughter before anything else.
He was a sweetheart. I'll miss him terribly.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
SEJ Board Member
Kevin Carmody was a role model to me. I kick myself now for never telling him that.
There are lots of people in SEJ who knew Kevin longer and other board members who were closer to him. But I found much inspiration in his example, and particularly in the way he conducted himself among his fellow human beings.
I agree with all that's been said about his friendly, personable manner, and how he went to great lengths to make everyone he came in contact with feel comfortable. Kevin struck me for his quality of just doing so much in his life — SEJ, his excellent work, the family he so clearly cherished — and yet never ever uttering a word of complaint about what had to be a grueling workload. As a board member for just over a year now, I'm only now catching my breath. Kevin did this for 15 years, and at such a high level. It's amazing to me.
About Kevin's journalism: I definitely agree that he did some ass-kicking projects. The stuff on Barton Springs, for instance, was brilliant, very hard to report, and also courageous — like a number of his other projects.
But go take a look at all of Kevin's work. He was the consummate beat reporter. He did those huge, intriguing investigations, but he was also not above doing the 2B update on a running story that he just felt was important and needed constant attention. He peppered his newspaper with stories from briefs to daily breakers to substantial and thoughtful weekenders to major investigations. He wrote intelligently about water pollution, mining, air pollution, endangered species, landfills, and on and on goes the list. It's a rare talent.
We can also learn much from Kevin about the conduct of our business in SEJ. As others have observed, Kevin did not speak often, but was listened to carefully when he did. He was a person who sought consensus. He understood keenly that even amid disagreements, we are all drawn together into this community to support each other and help each other. He was so generous with his time and his help for any who asked.
I feel I should say more — that I should have said more in these words I've already expended — but I'm also having a tough time taking this. I keep asking myself why this had to happen. This has been an awful, dark period for all of us and I'm no exception. Reading these e-mail tributes has helped me, so thanks to all who have posted.
SEJ Board Member
Kevin was a fishing buddy with whom I did not spend enough time. He was a doting father, a loving husband, a respected SEJ founder and board member, and a dogged, successful and admired journalist, but I didn't know any of those things when I first met him in 2000 at the SEJ conference in East Lansing, Michigan. I was walking to the Kellogg Center and happened upon Kevin who was standing on a bend of the Red Cedar River in the middle of the MSU campus, casting to fining steelhead.
We talked about fishing and made plans to fish together early the next morning, before the concurrent sessions. We went again on Saturday, stealing the day from the conference for a trip to a Grand River tributary where he caught a beautiful 8-pound steelhead that he proudly posed for pictures with before giving it to a young mother and her son who were having less luck. We barely made it back for the evening's conference activities.
At the 2001 SEJ conference in Portland we fished on Salmon Creek; at the 2002 conference in Baltimore we cut Saturday sessions to fish on the Gunpowder River. At a board meeting in Vancouver we stayed on the beautiful Cowichan River too long and had to change out of our waders in the parking lot to make it to an afternoon meeting and reception.
After a SEJ board meeting last summer in Vermont, we spent a morning drinking coffee from country stores and catching rainbows as we hopscotched through a series of pools on the Wylie River. And following the 2004 conference in Pittsburgh he stayed in town for a few days to fish with me and help me decompress on the Youghiogheny River and Laurel Hill Creek. There on Laurel Hill, during a gloriously sun-splashed and memorable late October day browns and rainbows rose hungrily to our flies. The action kept us on the creek till late in the afternoon, when reluctantly we had to admit that we'd run out of time again. Despite a speed limit-defying dash to the airport he missed his plane by a good hour, although with a kinetic bit of cell phoning while en route managed to snag a later flight.
I will miss him, especially when next I step into moving water.
SEJ Board Member
Kevin, wherever you are, I sure wish I could tell you how much your death — but mostly your life — affected so many of us. You were a leader, yes, but you were also the embodiment of SEJ's rank and file.
I will be sure to tell your wife and daughter how much we respected you and cherished your friendship. How generous you were with your time and your knowledge of everything from investigative reporting to fly fishing. How you helped connect us to one another, even in death. And how often you spoke to me about your family and the joy they brought you.
I wonder what you are teaching us now. Certainly you have made me think long and hard about the impermanence of life and the importance of living it, sharing it, to the fullest.
Science Editor, Popular Science
It was so typical of Kevin that our last phone call in September 2004 had him trying to help reconnect me with an old SEJ colleague who was contemplating leaving the profession. Kevin was like that, always trying to bring folks together, always helping out his fellow journalists. I'm especially sorry now to say Kevin and I missed each other on his New York trip that fall, but he caught up with me later and talked enthusiastically of this year's conference, pumping up Austin as a destination, touting a great music festival there that he was about to attend, inviting me to come next year. That's a chance to spend special time with Kevin I'll never have now, and it hurts to think about it.
Kevin and I first got to know each other in 1991, when he, Bowman Cox, Bob Engelman and I got together every few months to lay out the latest issues of the SEJournal. We labored happily together, and all came to really enjoy the sense of accomplishment and time well spent. After a while, Kevin recruited me as the journal's features editor, and again, typical of Kevin, he arranged for me to receive at the next annual conference a "certificate of merit" for my contributions. That's a piece of paper I'll treasure doubly now.
Others on this page have spoken eloquently about his work, and the professional successes he's known. And he was proud of what he'd accomplished, sharing those feelings with me over the years when he moved to Chicago, and then again to Austin. In that final September phone call, he recounted how his work had been seriously challenged by the subject of his reporting, but that his newspaper had stood strongly behind him, at great expense, and proved him to be in the right. Now we all can do what his paper did for him, and what Kevin did for his work and for so many of us — do our best, stand behind it and try to change the little piece of turf we stand on. That would make Kevin proud!
Senior Producer, ABCNEWS.com