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ŒBrowsing¹ columnist Jack Case dies in Arizona

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The most recognizable Bismarck Tribune writer of the second half of the 20th century, Jack E. Case, died of cancer Saturday in Sun City, Ariz. He was 78.

For 42 years, 1953-1995, Case wrote the popular ³Browsing Around² column, snippets of buzz, observations and humor, along with his ³question for today.² For the first 20 years, Case was on a grueling six-day-a-week schedule. If the Tribune had published Sundays, in those days, ³Browsing² would probably have run seven days.

For many years, the column was in addition to reporting duties. Case liked to tell how some staffers thought he had it pretty soft but learned otherwise when they needed to pinch-hit at ³Browsing,² when Case went on vacation.

³For the first two, maybe three, days, they were usually OK. Then they found out the well didn¹t refill itself, and they were scrambling.²

Case gathered his news nuggets from all around town, but especially at the coffee shops, where he was a regular at a half-dozen klatches. John Brookhart, now retired from Montana-Dakota Utilities, caught up with Case beginning in 1968, at the daily gathering at the old Prince Hotel.

³When somebody saw him perk up a little, they tended to shut up, unless they wanted to see themselves in the paper the next day,² Brookhart recalled Monday.

Another longtime friend, Realtor and developer Jack Kavaney, said Case enjoyed nothing more than trumping someone¹s knowledge of ³old Bismarck.²

³You know how longtimers will do, ŒWhere was this and where was that?¹ Jack loved to go back to his old city directories and settle arguments like that,² Kavaney said.

³He was a good guy who did a good job, and was one of those interesting characters you never forget.²

Case was born and raised in Oldham, S.D. He served four years with the U.S. Army, 1942-1946, in China, Burma and India, helping build airfields for an aviation engineers battalion. He then returned to college at the University of South Dakota, graduating in 1948. He went to work for the Tribune that same year.

Among stories he covered and counted his favorites were construction of the Garrison Dam, North Dakota¹s only state prison riot and a whistlestop tour of North Dakota made by President Harry Truman for the 1950 congressional elections. (Case rode along.)

In 1978, reflecting on 25 years at ³Browsing,² Case indulged his love of numbers.

³By a rough estimate, we have written 6,250 columns Š At 21.5 inches each, the column thus would total about 1,800 feet, or more than a quarter of a mile. With the Tribune averaging about 20,000 circulation, the columns have occupied a strip of newsprint 36 million feet long, or nearly 7,000 miles.²

Case retired as a staffer on Jan. 1, 1985, but not as a columnist. When he and his wife, Bertha, began wintering in Sun City in the 1990s, he found fodder among the Bismarck snowbirds and retirees. His last byline appeared Oct. 26, 1995, and said nothing about the Cases¹ impending move to Arizona ‹ for keeps.

Neither did Case ‹ not a goodbyes guy ‹ say a word to any of his friends but one, Jack Kavaney, who was put in charge of selling his house.

Graveside services are Wednesday at 1 p.m. MST at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, in Phoenix. Menke Funeral Home of Sun City is in charge of arrangements.

Case is survived by his wife of 48 years, the former Bertha Klein; by a son, Randall Case, of Mesa, Ariz.; by a daughter, Laurel Case, of Philadelphia, Pa.; and by a brother and sister.

(Reach Frederic Smith 250-8253 or mailto:fredsmith@ndonline. com.)

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