Letters to the Editor: Readers Respond to Kaul’s Departure

Managing Donald Kaul’s fan mail got harder after his farewell column. That’s no surprise — he’s a master columnist with a vast and loyal following. Yet I had a hunch that this part of my job wasn’t quite as challenging as it should be. So I checked with the good people who manage the OtherWords email system and got what Don would call “unsettling news.”

Virtually all the emails sent to [email protected] were going nowhere. And they weren’t bouncing. Anyone sending them had no way to discover that no one would ever read them.

I hate to admit this. But I want to do my best at shepherding all those messages from all the readers and editors who are relaying their kind words to Don. A tech expert has sworn that those vanished emails aren’t retrievable no matter how hard he and his colleagues wave their magic wands. So, if you emailed a note to that address before Tuesday afternoon, when we fixed this snafu, please send it again.

Donald Kaul (left), during the Des Moines Register's first Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) in 1973. Photo courtesy of the Des Moines Register.

Donald Kaul (left), during the Des Moines Register’s first Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) in 1973. Photo courtesy of the Des Moines Register.

Here’s a collection of my favorite letters and comments that streamed into my inbox before and after this glitch got resolved, paired with gems I found in various comment sections. Please, keep them coming. I’ve excerpted passages from the longer missives and left in two terms that may be unfamiliar. Many readers refer to “Over The Coffee,” the title of Kaul’s column in the Des Moines Register for years. Because he sometimes playfully referred to himself as “O.T. Coffee,” he earned the nickname “O.T.”

—Emily Schwartz Greco, the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. Please send (or re-send) your letters to Donald Kaul via email to [email protected]. You can also snail-mail them to OtherWords, 1112 16th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036.

The Letters So Far

“Thank you for the years of wit and insight you have provided. I hope you have many years left at ’100 percent.’ If you do, send me the name of the doctors ’cause I haven’t been at 100 percent in many years either. I don’t have to go through that whole heart attack thing to get to 100 percent do I? Hug the wife, eat well and avoid nincompoops as best you can, unless you find them entertaining. Highest regards, a fan.”
—Gene Ferrell

“I am 84 and if you stop writing I’ll have to call 911. Seriously, please keep writing. It doesn’t have to be politics all the time. Tell us about your life in journalism. You’re a very funny guy who is quite serious. Don’t let your fans down (and you’ve got tons of them).”
—Norm from Glenview, Illinois

“Your assessment of what is going on in DC, and in the rest of the country, also, the churches, is right on in my book. Please keep on writing! The world still needs the wisdom (dare I any longer use that word?) of the Silent Generation, especially yours. Besides, it will be good for you! I know that you are not a ‘believer,’ whatever that exactly means, but I am, whatever that exactly means, so I will just go ahead and offer prayers for your recovery and health. Best wishes.”
—Elliot Blackburn

“Get well and keep us sensible folk in mind. The crazies are taking over. You have more great observations to make.”
—Ann Bevington

“Even though Congress may give you a bad stomach ache, we need you to keep on a keepin’ on. I’m looking forward to the day when you’ll be back on the firing line. With best regards,”
—Roy Hickman, Kerrville, Texas (formerly from Ames, Iowa)

“You help to keep us sane by voicing what many of us are thinking but not articulating, certainly not as well as you do. Thanks for all of these years of great reading…may they continue.”
—Sue Sharp Johnson, Oelwein, Iowa

“What a great article, My broken heart! Telling all your readers about what you went through, always adding a little humor, a little advice, but still writing about what’s so important to most of us Americans. Please get back on your road to recovery and hopefully back to what you have always done best, writing! Your faithful reader,”
—Duane Lombardi

“This brings both good news and bad news about Donald Kaul. First, I’m so glad to hear that he survived the serious heart attack. But the last of what he wrote, about him dropping out of writing, is very sad/bad news. The last part of his words, about the status of our country and Congress, contain some real hard hitting zingers and I sure agree with him. Best wishes Donald. I hope you won’t give up on your writing. You have sharp and needed wisdom to share. I hope I will be able to read your words at least from time to time. The crooks, the robber barons, the bible thumpers, the politicians on both sides, and the apathetic public all need your wise attention.”
Charlotte Walker, Coralville, Iowa

“I wish Donald well in his recovery, will take his advice regarding chest pains and will miss his columns that were islands of respite in the sea of madness that is this on-line posting, publishing, social media or whatever we call it place on the Internet where we go to read and write now.”
—Paul Deaton

“My thoughts are with you, Donald. I may be one of the few people in the country who can honestly state that I have every book you’ve published. I often feel like things have gone to far to keep fighting, but I’ve decided the alternative to fighting is dying, and I don’t think you’re any more ready to do that than I am. Take care of yourself.”
—Maciej P. Wojtkowski, Olsztyn, Poland

“I grew up in Iowa, nurtured on a weekly diet of ‘Over The Coffee’ in the Des Moines Register. Donald, you were my first :-) columnist that I read regularly. Your column about Pat Buchanan’s speech at the 1992 Rep. Convention is permanently laminated in my literary collection. I am wishing passionately for your complete physical recovery and hoping that you find the fortitude to keep writing. But mostly just get well!”
pammy2

“Your columns have helped me cope with the madness that’s taking over. And while that might not suffice as a reason for you to continue writing, it’s not nothing. Here’s wishing you a long and happy life. Thank you for the many smiles, laughs and insights since I found Over The Coffee in the 1975.”

—John Kerr, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, formerly of Rockwell City, Carroll, and Ames, Iowa

“I and most everyone I know have been reading Kaul since we were kids. Congrats to Kaul on the positive prognosis and he deserves to live his life out happy for everything he has already given us. For us though, the world is a little less sane without his commentary.”
—Trish Nelson, University of Iowa

“So sorry to hear of your recent health problems but I wish you a full and speedy recovery. I also hope you will find the means to continue writing; your weekly editorial columns have always been a bright spot in this part of the Bible Belt.”
—David B., Aurora, Missouri