Hank Harvey; 1931-2012: Retired reporter at Blade 30 years


Hank Harvey, a Blade reporter for nearly 30 years who was respected for his expertise in transportation topics and his adept handling of diverse assignments, died Friday in Kansas City, Mo., where he lived with his son Robert and daughter-in-law Bridget. He was 82.

“He had been pretty infirm the last two years, with diabetes and congestive heart failure, and was limited to a wheelchair,” his son said.

Mr. Harvey — formally, Henry W. Harvey, Jr. — was a familiar figure on the bandstand at Tony Packo’s Cafe in East Toledo, where he played bass every weekend with the Cake Walkin’ Jass Band for 23 years.

He retired in mid-1993 from The Blade, the cadence of his native Arkansas still in his voice. For the newspaper, he covered transportation topics nearly full time starting in 1978 and was responsible for keeping tabs on the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority — while monitoring trucking and rail industries.

“He was one of our most esteemed colleagues of the past,” said John Robinson Block, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Blade. “Not only was he a very good reporter, he was a true professional.”

Mr. Harvey could be counted on to come through on delicate assignments “that needed a reporter who was very reliable and accurate and professional,” Mr. Block said.

Joe O’Conor, a retired Blade managing editor, said that editors were glad he was in the newsroom.

“He was a solid reporter. He could do almost anything,” Mr. O’Conor said.

Mr. Harvey took on ambitious assignments even late in his career. In 1990, the Associated Press of Ohio awarded Mr. Harvey top honors in series writing for a six-part report that detailed how intercity transportation had deteriorated and what Ohio and other states were doing to restore links among small towns, rural areas, and cities. He traveled about 4,000 miles over several weeks to report for the series. The following year, Mr. Harvey received AP recognition for his firsthand look at the travails of an independent truck driver on a round trip from Toledo to Texas.

“One of the reasons he was a good reporter was he could walk up to a stranger and talk to him,” his son said. “He had a disarming personality and made people like him right off the bat.”

In 1970, he attended the University of Michigan as a fellow of the American Political Science Association.

He was hired by The Blade on Nov. 11, 1963, and was assigned to the state desk. He took over the courthouse beat five weeks later, he recalled in an autobiography, and for several years covered five courtrooms in the Lucas County Courthouse, plus the county commissioners and other county elected and administrative officers — 22 offices in all.

He also covered city hall and general city desk and suburban desk assignments. He wrote about the Palm Sunday tornado of 1965 and the Blizzard of 1978. He and Blade photographer Jack Ackerman in 1966 canoed the more than 10 miles of Swan Creek and found it, according to the headline, a “Floating Dump, Poisoned by Oil, Trash, and Sewage.” He wrote about the acquisition and development of Wildwood Preserve Metropark and represented The Blade on a European trade mission of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp.

He contributed occasional articles to The Blade for much of his retirement.

Mr. Harvey came to northwest Ohio in 1955 as a news reporter for WIMA radio and television in Lima, Ohio. He dated his first Blade byline to 1959, and he was a correspondent for the newspaper until he was hired as a staff writer four years later.

In 1960, he was hired as a reporter by the Lima Citizen, which was formed in 1957 by several executives of the Lima News, including Wayne Current, who later became a Blade executive. Those managers and much of Lima were in revolt after the News was sold to ultra-conservative publisher R.C. Hoiles and his Freedom Newspapers Inc. The Citizen folded in 1964, but Paul Block, Jr., Blade co-publisher, so admired the effort that the Toledo newspaper set up a newsroom in Lima and established a Lima edition, “printed in Toledo and trucked every day to be an alternative to the Lima News at the time,” said his son, John Robinson Block.

Mr. Harvey was born Feb. 9, 1931, in Barton, Ark., to Carolyn and Henry W. Harvey, and was a 1948 graduate of Central High School in Helena, Ark., and attended Arkansas A&M. He was a graduate of a radio and television school in Memphis and became a disc jockey and news announcer at radio stations in Jackson, Miss., and Magnolia, Ark.

He was a longtime musician with a deep knowledge of traditional country music. He once played ukulele and guitar in country and folk bands before he picked up the double bass. He’d been a member of the American Federation of Musicians.

He was a former member of Aldersgate United Methodist Church.

He was a former president of the Society of Professional Journalists’ northwest Ohio chapter and was a former member of the Toledo Newspaper Guild executive board.

He and his wife, Frances, married April 15, 1955. She died Sept. 19, 2002.

Surviving are his sons, John W., Robert F., and Edward T. Harvey, and four grandchildren.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Antioch Community Church, Kansas City, where he was a member.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.