Donald P. Myers, a former Newsday features writer renowned in the newsroom for his long-form stories that colleagues said came to life on the page but left the reporter exhausted, died Oct. 5 in Colorado.
The cause of death was complications from a brain aneurysm, according to his daughter, Meredith Myers, of Denver. He was 80.
“I think Don Myers was a journalist trapped in the body of a novelist or a poet,” former Newsday editor Howard Schneider said. “He didn’t so much as produce these stories as give birth to them, with all of the attendant labor pains.”
Born March 19, 1937, in San Diego, Donald Patrick Myers lived in California as a child before attending high school and college in Texas. He enlisted in the Navy after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, his daughter said, and served from 1962 to 1964.
Myers wrote about his childhood for Newsday, touching on a troubled upbringing in essays for the newspaper’s Part II section, which he said helped him when he later became a father of two.
“Back in my dimpled days, I lived for a few years in a California children’s home, because my father failed to pay child support and my mother could earn just enough to survive on her own,” he wrote in 1996. “I remembered my father only from unkept birthday promises, always the same, written in turquoise ink: ‘Send me your sizes and I will send you some clothes.’ ”
Myers’ journalism career spanned the country. He worked for United Press International in Texas, New Mexico, New York and Colorado, as well as for the Oregonian, the Rocky Mountain News and the Miami News, before heading to Newsday, according to an obituary written by former UPI colleagues. He was hired at Newsday in 1988.
“He was a perfectionist in his writing,” Meredith Myers said. “It was almost like music. It had to flow the right way and keep your attention. He’d draw you back to a point several times in the story. The whole process of putting that together for him was torturous.”
His daughter remembered watching him craft stories that were thousands of words long, only to spend an entire weekend editing them.
“I read his stuff now and I’m just amazed the way he wove the stuff,” she said. “I didn’t talk to Dad for those three or four days while he was doing that final edit.”
Newsday colleagues recalled Myers as “an extraordinary guy with a talent to match,” said Fred Bruning, a former reporter.
Myers rarely wore a tie and seldom used a notebook, preferring to record his interviews and later transcribe them, which led to long gaps between his pieces. He wrote about “life’s truths” in the “everyday struggles” of average people and had mastered the use of dialogue, Schneider said.
“He had the ability to get to the heart of the matter often in his reporting,” Bruning said.
Myers’ style and voice would have been apparent in a story, even if his byline had been missing, Bruning added.
“Newsday, in my view, was a tremendous newspaper, but it was even better when Don was in it,” Schneider said. “His writing was an essential part of who he was because he invested so much in it.”
His family and colleagues also remembered his eccentric personality.
“He used to describe himself as a curmudgeon, but he really wasn’t,” Meredith Myers said, adding that he had a “goofy sense of humor, sardonic and profane.”
After he retired from Newsday in 2004, Myers moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, and vowed never to write professionally again.
“That’s a tragedy,” Schneider said. “I always thought or hoped that he’d produce a book or some fiction — he was that talented.”
Myers’ two marriages ended in divorce. He also is survived by son Donald Patrick Myers Jr. of Sedalia, Colorado.
No funeral was held for the elder Myers, who was cremated. Donations may be made to the Committee to Protect Journalists, his daughter said.