SIERRA VISTA — Described as compassionate and caring. Generous, grumpy and grizzled. Opinionated, quintessential. And above all, talented.
No matter how one remembers Bill Hess, most would agree that this remarkable journalist is a local institution.
William Parker Hess died on November 8, 2020, at Canyon Vista Medical Center of complications from diabetes and strokes. He was 82.
As a 30-year journalist with Wick Communications, Hess won multiple awards throughout his career and in 2012 was named the Arizona Newspapers Association Journalist of the Year.
He served in the Air Force, was a Vietnam War veteran and retired as a Master Sergeant. In 2009 he was honored as an Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society inductee, recognized for “many great accomplishments” during his lifetime.
“Bill has touched many lives by contributing his time and talents to Arizona,” said Gerry Berger, AVHOF president. “He was admired and respected and his friendship was enjoyed by many ... Bill will be missed, yet remembered for the love and caring spirit he shared with all.”
From co-workers to community leaders to Fort Huachuca’s public affairs office, similar reflections about Hess and his exemplary journalistic contributions in this area reverberated through multiple tributes that streamed into the Herald/Review.
“Bill Hess was a fine representative of the craft of journalism, his community and the country he loved,” Wick Communications President and CEO Francis Wick said through an emailed tribute. “Wick was blessed to have listed his bylines and shared in his passion. Our gratitude is with his family and all of those readers who enjoyed his work.”
Former Herald managing editor Eric Petermann highlights some of his more memorable experiences with Hess, including the following description of the seasoned reporter.
“A grizzled veteran news reporter and former editor, Bill Hess was the classic character from a fictitious novel. If not for the fact that he rarely imbibed, I half expected to see whiskey in his desk drawer. He was ‘Lou Grant’ personified.”
Petermann spoke of how Hess immediately welcomed him to the Herald/Review newsroom and drove him around town and to Bisbee and back through Palominas on his first day in the editor’s office.
“He quickly schooled me on local nomenclature, his perception of the newsroom, how Fort Huachuca worked and the importance of water in southeast Arizona,” said Petermann, as he recalled his Herald initiation.
“It was an honor and a privilege to work side-by-side with Mr. Hess. I am better for it and I will never forget our times together and all the goodness we shared.”
Former Herald/Review Publisher Phil Vega worked with Hess for more than 20 years. “Bill was the quintessential reporter,” he said. “It was not unusual for him to write between 30 and 35 stories or more every month. Ink ran through his veins and he lived and breathed his work. In 2012, he was named the Arizona Newspapers Association Journalist of the Year.”
Despite what Vega describes as a “grumpy newspaper-guy persona,” he said Hess had a softer side, as he supported numerous local charitable organizations and events including the Sierra Vista Symphony and Christmas toy drives for kids.
“Bill was a New Yorker, and that came through in his opinionated ways. He wrote so many positive and interesting stories about the community that would have gone unreported had it not been for Bill. And that kind of thing is irreplaceable.”
About Bill Hess
Born in Newburgh, New York, in 1938, Hess enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1957. He retired in 1981 as a Master Sergeant.
His military career was followed by his career with Wick Communications as a reporter and editor, five of those in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and 25 in Sierra Vista where he reported for the Herald/Review. Hess was masterful at weaving stories, and while he wrote about multiple subjects, he was best known for his stories about the military. He featured soldiers, their families and veterans while serving as the Herald’s military affairs reporter. To that end, he played an integral role in telling Fort Huachuca’s story and built relationships between the fort and community.
“He was no stranger to the nuances of military intelligence training and deployed with the 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion on multiple occasions,” said Angela Camara, Fort Huachuca public affairs officer. “The number of articles he wrote about the fort is staggering and a true testament to his love for the journalistic profession.”