Writer, historian, and farmer
Doug Hunter was one-of-a-kind
What happens when the infallible one falls? When the one who’s always lifted you up, lent a hand, made you laugh, and set you straight when your own compass was lost, leaves the planet? When you never considered it could or would happen and just does not seem possible?
I don’t know the answer as I’m still finding out. Doug Hunter died on August 6, and it still seems untrue, surreal and impossible.
Many readers remember Doug for his uber-popular series he aptly titled ‘Capac’s Unsolved Mystery’ he wrote in the fall/winter of 2018 and spring of 2019. The series highlighted the mysterious disappearance of beloved Capac merchant Hale Currier, who vanished on October 17, 1948, while on a hunting trip with friends in the Upper Peninsula.
To this day we continue to receive calls and emails about the series—which we continue to chuckle about around here. Why? Because while we’d churn out stories week after week without much feedback, Doug would write a story now and then and the praise would roll in, every time.
A skilled writer, Doug was equally eloquent with the spoken word. Veterans groups, church groups, civic and political organizations all sought out Doug’s mastery of public speaking, and he always delivered. When people passed away, he was sought out to give the eulogy, which he wrote with extreme compassion and care. I know this because I typed many of them up for him, as he was old school and wrote everything out in longhand on a yellow legal pad. Deciphering his chicken scratch made me tear my hair out sometimes, but what I wouldn’t give to have a chance to do that once more.
Doug came to the Tri-City Times just before the dawn of 2007 when he called me out of the blue. Though I later found out lots of people knew Doug, I was unacquainted with his history, except that he was active in politics. A Democrat always stands out in this neck of the woods. Doug told me about The Capac Journal which was founded by his great-grandfather Noble Hunter in 1887. The Capac Journal eventually became part of the Tri-City Times, and as late as the 1980s we still printed a ‘Capac Journal’ page in every edition.
Anyhow, Doug tells me about a promise he made to his father—Noble’s grandson Allen—as he lay dying.
“Tell the story,” Allen Noble Hunter whispered to his son. “Keep the history alive.”
Doug says his dad was thinking a lot about Capac’s 150th anniversary in his final days, and that’s what spurred him to urge Doug to document the Hunter family legacy, whose roots stretch back four generations to the pioneer days when Capac was just a swamp in the wilderness.
At the time, Doug tells me what he’s thinking about doing—and tells me he must do it because he promised his dad—and I think it sounds great.
So with the help of his Aunt Elisabeth and Uncle Don Jamison, Doug began pouring through ancient issues of The Capac Journal, through reams of notes and photos and through the yellowed pages of his great-grandfather’s personal diary.
Through Doug’s journey it becomes clear to me that he’s fulfilling his destiny. Doug is not only a gifted writer, he’s a thoughtful, caring and hugely considerate man—traits that were a little surprising if you simply consider his robust stature and gravelly voice.
Doug was so concerned about getting the facts and details right—about not missing anyone’s name, making anyone feel bad, making it seem like it was all about him. He was truly fulfilling a promise, a vow with all the reverence and commitment of a priest. He was nervous about how his writing would be perceived—unsure if it was any good, and not exactly convinced when I told him to take my word for it. And guess what? I was right. In the six months that Doug wrote historic stories, he got more letters and kudos than I’d gotten in a year. He deserved every bit of it, too. And the feedback truly made his day. Ours, too.
Doug was not so serious outside the scope of his writing, though. Every time he walked into the office there was some sort of joking around and the sound of his deep laughter that came from his gut and lit up his face and everyone else’s, too.
He got a kick out of the simplest things and reminded everyone around him that life is funny—even when it seems like it’s not.
Along with being a writer, Doug was a farmer, a retired truck driver, political activist, father, grandfather, community sounding board, history buff, and go-to guy when people want to put something down on paper. In other words, he was first and foremost a stand up guy.
Doug stood up to the court system, too—all the way to the Supreme Court and guess what? Doug Hunter set a precedent in labor law. Newsweek magazine did a write up about him for doing so.
Doug was a believer in justice, a man whose sense of what’s fair was honed sharp and he wasn’t afraid to point it out by standing up for it. He’s the guy people went to to right a wrong, to put wheels in motion for action, to make a difference through the power of the written word.
I suspect Doug couldn’t help that. It was genetic. Part of his DNA, something he couldn’t change or deny if he wanted to.
With friends in both “high and low places,” Doug was a bit of a Renaissance man. He was generous with his money and his time, and supported numerous local causes including the Capac Food Pantry and the Capac Historical Society. His friendship, humor, wisdom, and dare I say influence, have encouraged me more than once. A big man with a bigger heart, Doug helped me in my darkest hour, no questions asked, never again discussed.
Doug Hunter is among one of the greatest persons I’ve ever run across, and his ‘Capac Journal’ contributions to the paper continue to be enjoyed, talked about and cherished by readers from around the state. His legacy lives on through his writing, his children, grand- and great-grandchildren, and in the hearts of all of us here at Tri-City Times.
Doug’s obituary is available online at tricitytimes-online.com/2023/08/09/douglas-allen-hunter-72/ and in the August 9 print edition of Tri-City Times.