Our Voice: A tribute to retired editor Chris Sivula, 1953-2015

Chris Sivula
Chris Sivula

Former editorial page editor Chris Sivula had a way of offering quick opinions without coming off as opinionated. He could disagree without being disagreeable, and he could push without being pushy.

Those traits served him well during the 11 years he wrote editorials — using this very space — for the Tri-City Herald.

Sadly, Chris passed away suddenly Sunday at age 62.

We are heartbroken.

Chris was a fixture at the Herald, grinding out and editing stories over a span of 32 years. A west-sider, Chris studied journalism at the University of Washington. He started working for the Herald in 1982 as an intern covering the state Legislature in Olympia.

After his internship, the Herald hired Chris full-time and he officially joined the staff in June 1982. His ability to quickly grasp complex issues and then explain them in easy-to-read stories helped him move through the reporting ranks until he had earned the Hanford beat, arguably one of the toughest journalistic jobs in the region.

He handled scientific issues with aplomb, as if he had a doctorate himself. In an effort to improve, however, he left the Herald for a short time to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning a fellowship for scientific writers.

He returned to the Herald in 1990 and never left again. He started out writing and editing, eventually becoming an assistant city editor.

But it was on the editorial page where he really shined. He found he had a knack for writing opinion, which is very different than the kind of writing that goes on in the newsroom.

The opinion page is where facts add up to persuasion. It is where the news is analyzed, issues are debated, discussions are started and solutions suggested.

Chris appeared to have a very laid-back approach to the job, as he was such an easy-going guy. But when his fingers hit the keyboard, he was focused and on-target.

He was a talented writer, kind and thoughtful to his co-workers and a quiet volunteer in the community, serving on several boards throughout his career.

He leaves behind his wife, Betsy, and his daughter, Lauren, who, judging by the photos on his desk, were the focus of his life.

Chris wrote a farewell column when he retired last year. One of his parting comments was: “I’m excited about whatever the future might hold for me, and sad to be leaving the job that I’ve loved for 30 years.”

Well Chris, we are sad your future was cut short. But we are glad to have known you. Your insight influenced an entire community — day after day, and not many people can say that.