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Late Des Moines Register reporter Ken Fuson writes his own obituary for the paper — and it's going viral for all the right reasons

'An extraordinarily gifted storyteller'

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Former Des Moines Register reporter Ken Fuson wrote his own obituary, and apparently true to his style, the feature is both touching and funny.

Fuson, a 63-year-old journalism veteran, passed away last week following a battle with liver disease.

"Ken was an extraordinarily gifted storyteller," said Randy Evans, a retired Register opinion editor. "He found a way that allowed the reader to savor the experience of reading."

What are the details?

The Des Moines Register published its late reporter's obituary on Wednesday, and the obituary has since gone viral.

In the feature's opener, Fuson — who also worked for the Baltimore Sun during his tenure as a reporter — jokingly referred to himself as "stunned to know that the world is somehow able to go on without him."

Ken Fuson, born June 23, 1956, died Jan. 3, 2020 in at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, of liver cirrhosis, and is stunned to learn that the world is somehow able to go on without him.

Ken grew up in Granger, and decided when he was a sophomore at Woodward-Granger High School that he wanted to be a newspaper reporter. He covered sports for the Woodward Enterprise before leaving for the University of Missouri-Columbia. He attended the university's famous School of Journalism, which is a clever way of saying, "almost graduated but didn't." Facing a choice between covering a story for the Columbia Daily Tribune or taking his final exams, Ken went for the story. He never claimed to be smart, just committed.

In 1981, Ken landed his dream job, working as a reporter for The Des Moines Register, where he was probably best known for writing a one-paragraph, one-sentence weather story that has been reprinted in four books.

In 1996, Ken took the principled stand of leaving the Register because The Sun in Baltimore offered him more money. Three years later, having blown most of that money at Pimlico Race Track, he returned to the Register, where he remained until 2008.

In his newspaper work, Ken won several national feature-writing awards, including the Ernie Pyle Award, ASNE Distinguished Writing Award, National Headliner Award, Missouri Award (twice) and Distinguished Writing Award in the Best of Gannett contest (five times, but who's counting?). No, he didn't win a Pulitzer Prize, but he's dead now, so get off his back.

There are those who would suggest that becoming a free-lance writer in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression was not a wise choice, but Ken was never one to be guided by wisdom.

He wrote the book, "Heading for Home" with Kent Stock, about the 1991 Norway baseball team that won the state championship in its final season. Good copies still available.

In 2011, Ken accepted a job in the marketing department at Simpson College, where he remained until 2018. He enjoyed it very much, but once again forgot an important lesson: Always have a Plan B.

He was diagnosed with liver disease at the beginning of 2019, which is pretty ironic given how little he drank. Eat your fruits and vegetables, kids.

He is survived by his sons, Jesse and Max, and his stepson, Jared Reese, who all brought Ken unsurpassed joy. He hopes they will forgive him for not making the point more often. He loved his boys and was (and is) extraordinarily proud to be their father.

For most of his life, Ken suffered from a compulsive gambling addiction that nearly destroyed him. But his church friends, and the loving people at Gamblers Anonymous, never gave up on him.

Ken last placed a bet on Sept. 5, 2009. He died clean. He hopes that anyone who needs help will seek it, which is hard, and accept it, which is even harder.

Miracles abound. Ken's pastor says God can work miracles for you and through you. Skepticism may be cool, and for too many years Ken embraced it, but it was faith in Jesus Christ that transformed his life. That was the one thing he never regretted. It changed everything.

For many years Ken was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Indianola and sang in the choir, which was a neat trick considering he couldn't read a note of music. The choir members will never know how much they helped him. He then joined Lutheran Church of Hope.

If you want to know what God's love feels like, just walk in those doors. Seriously, right now. We'll wait. Ken's not going anywhere.

Ken had many character flaws — if he still owes you money, he's sorry, sincerely — but he liked to think that he had a good sense of humor and a deep compassion for others. He prided himself on letting other drivers cut in line. He would give you the shirt off his back, even with the ever-present food stain. Thank goodness nobody asked. It wouldn't have been pretty. He also was a master Jumbles solver.

Other survivors: his father, Don Fuson. Brother: Joe. A niece and two nephews. In lieu of flowers, Ken asked that everyone wear black armbands and wail in public during a one-year grieving period. If that doesn't work, how about donating a book to the public libraries in Granger or Indianola?

Yes, this obituary is probably too long. Ken always wrote too long.

God is good. Embrace every moment, even the bad ones. See you in heaven. Ken promises to let you cut in line.

Memorial services for Fuson will be held Saturday at West Des Moines' Lutheran Church of Hope.

The Des Moines Register set up a GoFundMe page to help offset medical and burial costs.

At the time of this writing, the page has received more than $9,300 in donations.

You can read more about Fuson's personal and professional background here.

One last thing…
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