Robert Peltola, a sports editor at The Daily World in the 1960s and ’70s at a time of some of Aberdeen’s major successes in high school sports, died Thursday, June 27, in Olympia, where he had lived for many years. He died on his 86th birthday of complications from cancer.
“Robbie Peltola — who preferred ‘Rob’ as he got older — was a first-rate sports writer with an encyclopedic knowledge of Grays Harbor sports,” said John Hughes, a former Daily World editor and publisher who covered high school sports for the newspaper in the 1960s and early ’70s. “Robbie was an Aberdeen kid who played sports and loved all manner of sports — except for his bugaboo: hydroplane racing. Whenever he was on vacation, our ace sportswriter, Ray Ryan, would run lots of hydro stories. Upon his return, Robbie would pretend to be cross, but he had to laugh. He had an easy-to-read style, and his ‘Going the Rounds’ columns were punctuated with dozens of names and tidbits — including scoops.”
Peltola was also city editor at the newspaper for a time, supervising reporters, including longtime sports editor Rick Anderson who started on the news side.
“Since my background was primarily in sports, I was pretty green in terms of news coverage,” Anderson recalled Monday. “Robbie was a blunt guy, but he seemed to sense and tolerate my inexperience and I felt I learned a lot from him. I later worked under him when he transitioned from city editor back to sports editor and he gave me several valuable lessons in that area as well.
“The most memorable lesson came a few months into my Daily World career, when he was still city editor and assigned me to a breaking news story. I was already working on a couple of other stories and told him that I could probably finish his latest request by early the following week. “We’re not working for National Geographic here,” Robbie responded without changing expression. “I need it tomorrow.”
When Peltola left the paper in 1977 and moved to Olympia to go into the retail business, Anderson succeeded him as sports editor.
Peltola was an outstanding baseball player and played on some of the area’s adult semi-pro teams in the 1960s. He also taught journalism at GHC for a few years.
Anderson remembers Peltola for a crisp, economical writing style and rock-solid game coverage, but said his strength may have been in column writing, pieces that usually covered multiple topics with tidbits, scoops and news you can use.
He remembers Peltola lecturing him and fellow sports writer Ray Ryan on the need for tight writing and the basics. Ryan, never one to miss an opportunity to tweak authority and have some fun in the process wrote this lead sequence the next time he covered a basketball game:
“Who: The Grays Harbor College Chokers.
“What: Lost to Centralia College.
“When: Wednesday night.
“Where: Sam Benn Gym.
“Why: You tell me, buddy.”
To his credit, Peltola ran it as Ryan wrote it.
Peltola’s first wife, Marilyn ,died in 1998. He remarried in 2001 and his wife Sandy survives him at their home in Olympia. He is also survived by a daughter, Shawni Leachmans of Olympia, and a son, Dan Peltola of Lacey.
No funeral is planned, but the family intends to have a celebration of his life in the Olympia area.