Twenty years ago when newspapers were the only game in town I worked for a daily paper located about halfway between New York City and Albany named the Middletown Times Herald-Record. They called the region the mid-Hudson and cities and villages fell into two categories -- rundown or quaint. Most were rundown.
I was in my mid-20s back then and I was lucky enough to run with an amazing pack of reporters who I shared pick-up basketball games, beers and newsroom laughs.
A guy who worked as a bureau editor in probably the most depressed mid-Hudson city of them all -- Newburgh -- was a 6-foot, four-inch huge, gregarious and talented cartoon of a man named Mark Pittman. Mark had a deft writing touch, a booming laugh and a penchant for smoking lots of cigarettes.
The big dude had a bigger-than-life presence -- and he was my editor in Newburgh in the late 1980s when I covered West Point and the military in the mid-Hudson Valley.
I recall his excellent writing and editing skills when I worked with Mark on a special section about the local military serving in the Middle East 20 years ago and I called him "The Dog" in an affectionate way for his pitbull-like tenacity.
Mark spent 12 years at the Times Herald-Record before he joined Bloomberg News in New York and went on to make a big name for himself uncovering the banking and mortgage scandals only a few years ago and forcing the Fed to be more upfront with the public about its bailouts. By then, most of the Times Herald-Record reporters and editors had scattered and I lost touch with Mark.
Today, though, Mark is on my mind because I was saddened to hear he died this week at the young age of 52. I had heard a few years ago that he suffered a heart attack and that he had heart-related illnesses.
We shared newsroom experiences and post-deadline gatherings when we were at an age when mortality was not discussed. Twenty years later, that's no longer the case. Mark's the third former newspaper comrade of mine to die this year.