George Hesselberg is retiring Friday after a long and storied career at the Wisconsin State Journal.
George's imprint on Wisconsin journalism and this newspaper in particular has no parallel. From his exceptionally keen eye and wry sense of humor to his unconventional-to-the-point-of-unclassifiable narrative style, the Bangor native brought a consistent voice and personality to the paper that transcended a parade of publishers and editors over more than 40 years.
From the day he showed up in the newsroom as an intern in 1972 wearing a three-piece suit (the first and only time he would do that), George devoted his life to this business, and this company.
At the end of the summer, after he took a Yellow Taxi to a fire in Cross Plains, the State Journal hired him as a part-time cops and general assignment reporter while he finished school.
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There was a hiatus of several years during which he moved to Norway, where he studied philosophy and logic at the University of Oslo while working as a night watchman for the Norwegian telephone company, a bartender at an Italian restaurant, a nude model for an art student ("I was pretty skinny then" he says) and a copy editor for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. He married, and he and Else wandered around Nepal, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Penang and Tokyo.
In 1977, the newspaper hired him back as a full-time police reporter. He would spend the next four decades as a columnist, general assignment reporter, overall muckraker and agitator of the privileged and powerful.
To his colleagues at the paper, George was a stalwart ally, advocate and mentor. To his editors, a marvel, even if a sometimes maddening one (the term "Hesselbergian" long ago entered editors' lexicon to describe George's unique ability to combine lyricism, pithy insight and untamed prose).
The State Journal staff sincerely thanks George for his monumental contribution to the work that sustains them all.