A 43-year journalism career ended Tuesday when Jack Kramer died after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 65.
Kramer worked for more than three decades at the New Haven Register, leaving as the executive editor when it was owned by the Journal Register Co. before going to the New Britain Herald. He spent the last five years reporting for CTNewsJunkie.com and Patch.com.
Mheegan Rollins Bachinski, who was assistant news editor under Kramer at the New Haven Register, said he was the kind of boss who saw your potential even if you didn’t.
“I didn’t believe in myself but Jack Kramer did,” Rollin Bachinski said.
She said he had an office on the second floor of the building, but he chose to work in the newsroom “next to us.” She said he never shut his office door and was ever-present in the newsroom.
Al Santangelo, who has been at the paper for more than 20 years and was promoted to the copy desk by Kramer, said Jack was someone who was involved in the community.
“The police chief knew him, the mayor knew him, and the fire chief knew him,” Santangelo, who is now assistant managing editor at the New Haven Register, said. “When you thought about the Register you thought about Jack Kramer.”
Kramer, who started out delivering the New Haven Register, would even field calls from disgruntled readers, Rollins Bachinski said. She said the most calls he ever got from readers was when the national syndicate ran the same Batman comic twice.
“The day Jack left the Register was the day that paper changed forever,” she said. “No one can stand in his shadow or fill his shoes.”
Lisa Backus, who worked for Kramer in New Britain, said he understood a good story and was supportive of his reporters.
She said he was always calm when there was breaking news about a hospital shooting or the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Santangelo said the same was true on 9/11. He called everyone to the newsroom and they got to work putting out the paper the next day in addition to a special edition.
“What a loss for journalism,” Backus said. “He was a tremendous editor and truly a reporter’s editor.”
Backus said she did some of her best work under Kramer because he supported her and let her go out and do the reporting.
“Whatever windmill I was chasing, he would 100% say go for it,” Backus said.
At the same time he was this incredible person who was really modest about it.
He made such a mark on the careers of all the reporters and editors he worked with throughout his career.
He was also proud of the topics he got to cover.
In a goodbye column that never ran because there was hope that his cancer prognosis would improve, Kramer reflected on some of those stories. The four paragraphs that follow are Kramer’s own words.
I’ll never forget that moment when I walked into the Guilford Community Center a few years ago and expected a few people, a few reporters, the usual crew to be there. I was blown away as I was hit full frontal with a crowd of hundreds as a Guilford parent talked about the “opioid crisis” that had claimed the life of her son, Nick, in 2013.
I’ve gone on to write dozens of stories about that crisis that takes three lives in the state of Connecticut every single day. Thank you, Sue Kruczek, for being the person who brought the issue to mine and the state of Connecticut’s attention.
A few short years later I was back in Guilford – telling the sad story of the Song family.
Ethan Song was 15 years old when he fatally shot himself in January 2018 in Guilford while playing with guns with a friend. Now, due to the advocacy of the Song family and I’d like to think in part because of the scores of stories about “Ethan’s Law,” we have the safest gun storage laws in the country in Connecticut.
He joked that CTNewsJunkie had “pulled an old reporter off the scrap heap,” but Kramer was never rusty.
In fact, he was still reporting from his hospital bed. His final story for CTNewsJunkie was posted April 22.
His family joked that he would do anything for a story, including going to the hospital during a pandemic to see what was happening.
In his final week, he emailed Backus to let her know what a good job she was doing.
Tamara Leigh Kramer, his daughter, said her father didn’t know how to stop reporting.
“It’s just his passion,” Leigh Kramer said.
She said he knew everything that was happening in town and if he saw something out of the ordinary he would immediately start thinking that it might be a story.
She said he was willing to do things that made him uncomfortable, like tackling technology, because he didn’t want to stop telling the story.
But Kramer was more than just a great editor and reporter. He was a great father and husband.
Leigh Kramer said she was a swimmer when she was young, and even though she wasn’t very good, her father was always there in the bleachers watching her swim meets.
“He was always there for me,” Leigh Kramer said. “And he always thought I was smarter, capable, and more talented than I believed.”
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to made in honor of Kramer to the Sarcoma Foundation of American.