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Harty: Tragic loss of sportswriter Susan Denk leaves big void

[ 0 ] August 21, 2014 |

No matter what happens on the field this fall, it won’t feel the same covering the 2014 Iowa football team without Susan Denk on the beat.

This week started under horrible circumstances as word spread Monday morning that Susan had died suddenly at the age of 39.

Nearly four days later, I still have to remind myself that she is gone. I still feel numb.

Susan’s death at such a young age from an apparent heart attack makes no sense, but who says death has to make sense? Death doesn’t discriminate.

If anyone deserved more time to live, it was Susan.

Susan, who had worked at the Burlington Hawk Eye since 1999, enjoyed being a sports writer and she respected the cause of journalism. But it hardly defined her.

My conversations with Susan rarely were about sports. We often talked about our dogs and she cherished hers as much as I do mine, if not more.

Susan, like a typical sportswriter, worked a wide range of hours and spent lots of time traveling to sporting events. But that didn’t stop her from donating much of her free time to saving dogs as a volunteer with the Des Moines County Humane Society.

Susan also had a passion for working out, sometimes pushing her body to the limit, either on her bicycle or by running long distances.

And, wow, could she cook. And that’s just based on the dessert items that Susan brought to Iowa football games on a regular basis. You always could count on Susan to have a warm smile and a warm plate of goodies to greet you with on game day at Kinnick Stadium.

She was the calm in a media storm. She took her job seriously, but not herself.

Susan knew her stuff and she knew the Big Ten landscape after growing up in suburban Chicago and graduating from the University of Wisconsin.

She was as comfortable covering the Burlington Bees minor league baseball team as she was the Iowa football team. She also covered the Southeastern Community College men’s basketball team with equal enthusiasm.

Susan did everything with enthusiasm. She treated people with kindness and respect. She provided a woman’s touch in what is still mostly a man’s world of sports journalism.

There always is a sense of excitement in the days leading up to the Iowa football team’s season opener, but that seems so irrelevant now as we adjust to life without our beloved colleague.

Susan’s funeral will be Friday morning in her hometown of Midlothian, Ill. Memorial contributions to the Des Moines County Humane Society would be appreciated.

Reporters will gather Tuesday for Kirk Ferentz’s first weekly news conference of the season in preparation for the Aug. 30 season opener against Northern Iowa. Try as we will to make it business as usual, Susan’s absence will make it a somber event.

I can only imagine how the people who were close to Susan must feel as they face life without her positive influence.

It’s hard, almost impossible, to find anything positive from Susan’s premature death. I take some comfort in knowing that she lived each day to the fullest and that she was happy and loved by so many.

But I miss my friend and colleague and don’t understand why life sometimes is so cruel.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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