STURGIS — The news of Corky Emrick’s death Monday left many in the St. Joseph County community shocked and saddened, evidenced by the outpouring of condolences on social media, and the words of respect and admiration from his friends and colleagues when speaking to the Three Rivers Commercial-News.
“Corky put his heart and soul into covering local high school athletes,” Sturgis Journal Managing Editor Candice Phelps said. “Taking photos of local athletes and showcasing their accomplishments on the pages of the Journal’s sports section made him smile. He will be missed by all of us at the Journal, as well as those in the communities we serve.”
St. Joseph County Circuit Court Judge Paul Stutesman said he would remember the longtime Sturgis Journal sports editor as “a good friend and excellent reporter.”
“What a loss for our community,” Stutesman said. “Corky was a good friend and excellent reporter for the courts and public. He wanted to be sure he had the story correct before printing anything and he would call or come in ask questions if he wasn’t sure.”
The Three Rivers Police Department issued a statement on Facebook Monday expressing their grief over Emrick’s passing.
“It is with great sadness we learned of the passing of Corky Emrick today,” the post reads. “Corky was a long time reporter for the Sturgis Journal and frequently reported on public safety. Corky was a trusted reporter who always checked on what pictures were ok to print and what information would not compromise an investigation. Our thoughts and prayers are with Corky’s family.”
Tyler Langs and Jill Peterson, both of whom are entering their second year as co-athletic director at Centreville, spoke about Emrick’s impact on local sports.
Peterson, who has worked in Centreville’s athletic department a total of nine years, said Emrick was a staple in the realm of St. Joseph County athletics.
“It’s hard to imagine local St. Joseph County sports without Corky in the picture,” Peterson said. “He made such an impact on every coach, player, and parent with his support of the kids not only on the court but off the court. He knew what was going on in their lives and he just cared so much about kids.
“I think he was more passionate about his sports editor’s job than he was as a Green Bay Packers fan and that’s saying a lot. He just left such an impact on people.”
Peterson said when she was in high school Emrick and two other Sturgis Journal employees came to a girls’ basketball practice and played a game of 3-on-3 against Peterson and two of her teammates.
“I just remember having a fond memory of that day as an athlete,” she said. “It’s just hard to put into words what he did for the community and all the changes he had to deal with as a member of the media. He just kept working and supporting the kids and our communities in a great way.”
Langs, who has been at Centreville about three and a half years, said Emrick immediately treated him like he had been a coach at the school “for 10 years.”
“Corky was a great man. It’s funny because I’m not from St. Joseph County, but when I came to Centreville, when I arrived, he treated me like I had been here for 10 years,” Langs said. “He asked me ‘Coach, how you doing?’ and would always smile and shake my hand. I wondered who this guy was and when I found out, I just loved the way he would take the time to give us the same kind of coverage and time of day he would give to other communities like Sturgis.
“Centreville is a small town but it meant a lot to our kids and myself because it made us feel just as important. Corky was a guy that I would send him a score at midnight if he needed it. He is a person that has a lasting legacy that others will remember.”
Three Rivers Commercial-News Sports Editor Scott Hassinger said he met Emrick in the early 1990s when Emrick developed some photos for the Commercial-News. Hassinger said when he was informed of Emrick’s passing early Monday morning he couldn’t believe it, as Emrick was just as passionate and excited about the upcoming fall sports season as he was about every season that had come before it.
“(Corky) just told me a couple weeks ago how much he enjoyed doing this, and that the sports coverage is all about the kids, he loved doing it for the kids,” Hassinger said. “He was top notch, he went the extra mile to get the best photo possible, and he and his staff worked great together to make sure everybody got the details on the event they were covering.”
Emrick had an ability to tell a story without ever writing a word through his photography, according to Hassinger.
“He was a great photographer. A good writer but a great photographer. Even without a story you could get a sense of what happened at a car accident or a game with his photos, they were exceptional,” he said. “That was his goal, to get the best picture possible. He captured the excitement and the emotion of every event he went to, whether it was happy occasion or a sad occasion.”
Hassinger said Emrick’s passion for his work and the people he covered was evident.
“He had such great relationships with the area athletic directors, coaches, and the kids,” Hassinger said. “It was a passion, this work was a real passion to him. I would say it wasn’t really a job to him; it was fun. It was a major league baseball game — like taking the day off from work to go to a Major League Baseball game — that’s the way he approached his job, it was all fun for him. He wasn’t there for the paycheck, he was there to inform people about what goes on with the games and everything.”
Emrick was always willing to help a friend or a colleague, and in Hassinger’s case, both.
“He was a super friend and a super colleague, always willing to help other media out. I would consider him one of my best friends, and he really loved what he did,” Hassinger said. “He’s going to be missed, he touched a lot of lives through his work.”
Alek Frost can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or firstname.lastname@example.org.