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Neal Shine, R.I.P.

My professional life has been particularly blessed by a small group of people who pushed me to be better. They challenged me to try new things, to adapt and endure.

Neal Shine, who died yesterday, was one of them.

Today’s Detroit Free Press, the paper to which he devoted his working years, calls him “A champion of fairness, children and Detroit.” All true, and so much more.

The words, as always, do insufficient justice to the man — to the empathy he never had to cultivate, but which emanated from his soul; to the wonderful, wicked sense of humor that lit up every conversation and often left me breathless with laughter; to the love of family, friends and place; to all the qualities of a person who, as few can, earned the word “great” next to his name.

Everyone who knew Neal has a story about his generosity of time and spirit. Here’s mine:

In the early 1990s I was working at the Free Press and feeling fairly low about my future in journalism. The paper and I felt like a bit of a mismatch, despite everyone’s tries to find the right combination of position and person. I was ready to bag it entirely and try something else for a living.

I went to Neal, as I and countless others had done over the years, for advice. “Danny,” he said — no one since my childhood had called me Danny, but coming from Neal it seemed right — “we’ll figure it out.” He gently insisted that I could not quit on myself or the craft that was, so obviously to him, meant to be the better part of my life’s work, as it turned out to be.

Rest in peace, Neal.

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