Richard (Dick) Pryne held editing positions at The Times from 1946 to 1983 and was active in his community and church. He died Monday at 96.
A ready smile. An unwavering honesty. A commitment to family, faith and community.
Those are the traits that colleagues and friends of Richard (Dick) K. Pryne remember of the longtime Seattle Times editor, who died Monday at 96.
“Dick Pryne was a shy, soft-spoken guy with a great intellect and laser focus,” recalled retired Times managing editor Alex MacLeod. “He taught a younger generation of reporters and editors how to really read and analyze a story.”
Mr. Pryne held editing positions at The Times from 1946 to 1983. As news editor when The Times began publishing a morning edition in 1980, he decided which stories went on the front page.
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“People like Dick are invisible to readers, but their skills are essential to whatever trust (readers) come to have in what they read,” MacLeod said.
Mr. Pryne’s son, Eric, a Seattle Times reporter and editor from 1976 to 2013, said his father’s sense of responsibility to readers led to The Times’ publication in 1972 of a controversial Associated Press photo of a naked Vietnamese girl, burned by napalm, running along a highway. The photo, which earned a Pulitzer Prize for photographer Nick Ut, heightened Americans’ disdain for the war.
As important as journalism was to Mr. Pryne, it never supplanted his faith. He was a member of Woodland Park Presbyterian Church for more than 40 years, serving in leadership positions and editing a church newsletter.
“He was wise. He was thoughtful. He was considerate,” said the Rev. Duncan Hanson, a former pastor at the church. “When I had things I needed to figure out, he helped me do that.”
Hanson, who now works in ecumenical relations of the church in Europe and the Middle East, recalls Mr. Pryne’s “warm smile, that was always a little bit amused. Not in a bad way, but like he was enjoying who he was with and what he was doing.”
Mr. Pryne was born Oct. 21, 1918, in Minnesota, and was a toddler when the family moved to California. He graduated in 1940 from UCLA and the following year received a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.
He spent two years in South America, writing for U.S. newspapers and news services and working for a State Department office established to counteract Nazi propaganda, before returning to the U.S. in 1943 and enlisting in the Army.
He served in the infantry in Italy, and after the war worked for six months in Paris on the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.
He was hired by The Seattle Times as a copy editor in 1946, then served as wire editor, assistant news editor, night news editor and news editor.
Fellowships allowed Mr. Pryne to travel, along with his wife, Margaret, whom he met in the summer of 1949 and married seven months later.
The couple raised their family in Ballard before moving to Port Ludlow in Jefferson County in 1988, then to a retirement community in Redmond in 1997.
Eric Pryne said his father’s commitment to making the world a better place was evident before and after retirement. In Seattle, he volunteered at his church’s soup kitchen. At Port Ludlow, he managed a campaign that raised taxes to improve emergency-medical services. At Emerald Heights in Redmond, he tutored immigrant staff members in English.
The positive side to having a father leave for work before dawn was that he often was home by midafternoon, to take a child to a music lesson or sports practice, Eric Pryne said.
Don Duncan, a retired Seattle Times reporter, remembers Mr. Pryne fondly. “He was always coming up with ideas. He was very interested in the schools, always interested in progressive ideas.”
Kathleen Triesch Saul, a retired Times reporter and editor, began working closely with Mr. Pryne with the start of the morning edition in 1980.
“We approached each other a bit warily — he the old hand with a well-honed sense of how the work was to be done, me the new kid with the big mouth.
“But as I got to know Dick, I learned so much more: that he was a fellow who could dissect a story with the best of them, who believed in the value of integrity both personal and professional, who loved the craft and demanded we practice it with equal parts fearlessness and fairness.”
Retirement’s greatest joy for the Prynes was having their children and grandchildren join them for weeklong winter trips to Palm Desert, Calif. Margaret Pryne died in 2012.
In addition to Eric Pryne, who lives on Vashon Island, Mr. Pryne is survived by a brother, Philip Pryne of Long Beach, Calif., daughters Susan Mahler and Julie Pryne, both of Seattle; five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren and Heather (Mann) Kiernan, an exchange student from Australia, who became like a third daughter.
A memorial will be held at 2 p.m. April 6 at Emerald Heights Retirement Community, 10901 176th Circle N.E., Redmond.