Lonnie Hudkins, the colorful author of The Buffalo News' Olaf Fub column who also penned thousands of Western New Yorkers' obituaries, died early Thursday in his Franklinville home, just hours after leaving his nighttime shift at The News. He was 81.
During his half-century newspaper career, Mr. Hudkins earned a spot in the heated historical debate over the John F. Kennedy assassination. As a reporter for the Houston Post, he covered the 1963 assassination, developing a lifelong interest in questions that still remain unanswered about the killing.
Mr. Hudkins was a beloved figure in The News newsroom, often regaling his colleagues, in his thick Texas drawl, with tales about everyone from local politicians to Jack Ruby. Colleagues often called him by a second nickname, "Hud."
"Lonnie's distinctive personality brightened the newsroom, and we will miss him," Managing Editor Gerald I. Goldberg said.
Mr. Hudkins often told new reporters about his JFK assassination theories, his personal encounters with Billy Graham and LBJ, his dinner with John Steinbeck or his experience as a pro boxing judge for Archie Moore.
Some of the tales were self-deprecatory. Mr. Hudkins often told about a fellow News reporter who wanted to make sure Mr. Hudkins remained alive and healthy.
"Otherwise," Mr. Hudkins drawled about his colleague, "He'd be the ugliest man in the newsroom."
Born Alonzo H. Hudkins III in Fort Worth, Texas, he served with the Army's 10th Armored Division in France and Belgium during World War II.
Before settling into his newspaper career, Mr. Hudkins worked for billionaire H.L. Hunt for about 10 years, starting in 1951 as an administrative assistant.
Mr. Hudkins worked for at least half a dozen newspapers, including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Antonio Express, Dallas Times-Herald, Houston Post and Baltimore News-American, before coming to Buffalo in 1979.
At The Buffalo News, Mr. Hudkins was best known as the author of Reporters' Notebook, the Olaf Fub column, which he started writing and editing in 1982. Four times a week, the column included news of high school reunions, military promotions, daily birthday listings, short poems and "Olaf Fub Sez" aphorisms.
Mr. Hudkins probably wrote more than 10,000 obituaries in his 28 years at The News. He was skilled at finding something noteworthy about even the most commonplace lives.
One obit, for example, led with the information that the deceased had spent every morning for years in the same booth at a Your Host restaurant.
Soon after arriving in Buffalo, Mr. Hudkins wrote a controversial front-page series on the Kennedy assassination. Among his conclusions was that assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had assistance but was not an innocent fall guy -- otherwise he would not have killed Officer J.D. Tippett, said to have been a personal acquaintance of Mr. Hudkins.
Survivors include his wife of 64 years, the former Mary Alice Slagle; two daughters, Mary Kathleen Ashlock and Martha Lonnette O'Rourke; and a son, Alonzo H. IV.
Services will be private.