My most vivid memory of Omer Gillham is from January 2001.
Assigned to cover the Oklahoma State plane crash, which claimed the lives of 10 people, we drove together to Stillwater. As we pulled into the university, a man greeted us in the parking lot, and I rolled down the window. It was Bill Hancock, who had lost his son, Will, in the tragedy.
The day was gray, the emotion raw. Words came hard.
As they do now.
We learned Monday that Omer, a veteran reporter who retired from the newspaper earlier this year, had died. He was 53.
Omer had that Civil War look, long and lean with a beard and sunken face.
Add the stovepipe hat and he could have been Abraham Lincoln.
But as imposing as he appeared in person, he was moreso on the phone.
Nobody worked a phone interview like Omer. Never giving an inch, he often raised his voice to get his point across, the conversation drawing the attention of fellow reporters. You could almost see the sources on the other end, sweating and squirming.
Old school to the end, he also pounded the pavement, slinking away from the newsroom to meet those necessary to get the story, which was always telling.
I wished I’d known you better, Omer. You were an original.
We are lonelier without you.