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Originally published July 2, 2013 at 8:49 PM | Page modified July 2, 2013 at 9:10 PM

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Washington journalist Lou Guzzo dead at 94

Lou Guzzo, a longtime Northwest journalist also known for his work on Gov. Dixy Lee Ray’s staff, died Saturday at age 94. A memorial is scheduled July 12.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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For more than four decades, Lou Guzzo was a fixture of civic life in this state, a name so recognizable that everybody had an opinion on him — ranging from the folks who clamored for him to run for mayor to the punk-rock band that penned a song, “Kill Lou Guzzo.”

A consummate journalist, the song didn’t bother him. And he turned down the call to run for mayor. Instead, Mr. Guzzo spent his time reading, writing and speaking on the topic most important to him: ways to make Washington a better place.

He died Saturday (June 29) at age 94.

“He was a visionary,” his daughter, Diane Guzzo Shepp, said.

Growing up in the Little Italy section of Cleveland, Mr. Guzzo had two talents: writing and violin. He wound up embracing the former, but his interest in music and the arts remained strong throughout his life.

In 1943 he married the former Madeleine LaMaida, a girl he met through the Italian American club as a teen. Serving in the Army at Fort Lawton in Seattle during World War II, he escaped being sent to combat overseas. Once his superiors learned he could write, they decided to use him stateside, as a public-relations man for the fort’s general.

“He fought that war with his typewriter,” daughter Judy Knight said. After the war, he returned to Cleveland to work for The Plain Dealer newspaper, but quickly returned to Seattle for a job at The Seattle Times. He worked at The Times for nearly 20 years, making his name as a drama critic and winding up editor of the arts and entertainment news.

Knight remembers as a girl answering phone calls at home from angry readers who used “words I’d never heard before.”

Afterward, she’d ask her dad: “ ‘Why do you have to write those things?’ He’d say: ‘I want to make people think.’ And that’s pretty much what he did.”

Later, Mr. Guzzo was hired to become managing editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Reporters there said he was a delight to work for.

In the mid-70s, he began working for Dixy Lee Ray, first when she served on the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and later in the governor’s office. When Ray failed to win a second term, Mr. Guzzo was hired by KIRO 7, despite his age — in his mid-60s — and his lack of television experience.

“He immediately understood the clarity of communication” that television required, explained John Lippman, then KIRO’s executive vice president of news. A grandfatherly figure who showed up every day with a smile, Mr. Guzzo served as mentor to the decidedly younger staff. He also generated a fair amount of viewer mail.

“He was very versatile in terms of his approaches, and the attitudes he expressed weren’t predictable,” Lippman said.

He had opinions on everything. Stop observing Pearl Harbor Day, he’d say one day. Tear down the Berlin Wall, he’d say another.

He worked at KIRO until he was 78. And after that he continued to write, including op-ed pieces for the local papers, books on a variety of subjects, and his own blog. As an octogenarian, he produced videos for YouTube.

“He’s the only man I know so far that never retired,” Knight said.

In recent years, his eyesight failed. But he always maintained that passion for life, his children said.

In addition to his wife of 70 years and daughters Guzzo Shepp, of Bellevue, and Knight, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., he is survived by daughter Lynne Bishop, of Kirkland; son Richard Guzzo, of Escondido, Calif.; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

A memorial is scheduled for 11 a.m. July 12 at St. Madeleine Sophie Catholic Church in Bellevue.

Maureen O'Hagan: 206-464-2562 or mohagan@seattletimes.com

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