Former Rapid City Journal editor Jim Kuehn, a man who loved the Black Hills and the news they produced, died Monday at a Rapid City nursing home.
He was 87.
A native of Mobridge, Kuehn worked an after-school job at the weekly newspaper in his home town, which inspired a passion for news. He followed that passion to earn a journalism degree from the University of South Dakota, work at weekly newspapers and after serving in the Army spend 37 years at the Rapid City Journal.
He was the editor for 19 years, overseeing the Journal's coverage of national news and events that included the Rapid City flood of 1972 and the Wounded Knee takeover in 1973.
"Jim Kuehn was a model journalist: highly ethical, kind, caring and gentle," said Jack Marsh, president of the Al Neuharth Media Center at USD. "He demonstrated his love and concern for the Rapid City region and its people by producing an outstanding newspaper in tune with his community."
Kuehn helped give fellow South Dakota journalist Al Neuharth, the founder of USA Today, a start in the business by hiring him as sports editor of the USD Volante, where Kuehn served as editor while in college.
"It was a leap of faith by Jim that helped launch Neuharth's career as one of the most accomplished media figures of our time," Marsh said.
Kuehn, who served on the advisory board at Neuharth Center, helped launch many news careers and shape and guide many others, said former Rapid City Mayor Don Barnett.
Barnett said he relied upon Kuehn and the Journal in the aftermath of the 1972 flood.
"Jim wrote the editorial two days after the flood, and it said exactly what this city needed to hear, that it would rise again like the Phoenix," Barnett said. "Somebody had to believe in the city, and Jim Kuehn and the Journal believed."
Kuehn was a believer in Rapid City throughout his professional years and in his community work after retiring in 1986. Mayor Sam Kooiker said Kuehn's work during the difficult period after the flood and, 40 years later, in its 2012 remembrance showed his commitment to the community.
"He was instrumental in the flood recovery and in the commemoration," Kooiker said Monday. "His service to our city was vital, and he will be missed."
He will be missed in particular by loved ones and friends who knew him long and well. They include Jerry Shoener, a 50-year Journal employee who was in leadership roles in circulation and other duties during Kuehn's years at the paper.
"He didn't blow a story up or knock it down. He was fair and he wanted accuracy," Shoener said. "He was very thorough, very accurate. When Jim was involved as a writer or editor, you knew it would be well done."
Shoener said Kuehn managed to be both a gentleman and an influential newsman who made a circulation manager's job easier.
"He always gave us a good product to sell," Shoener said.