Far from Colorado, I encountered my first Chuck Asay cartoon in high school. As he retires from national syndication, we run his farewell cartoon today on this page.
Upon discovering Chuck's work, I couldn't believe these cartoons were published. They were bold, honest and fearless. Too many run-of-the-mill cartoons of the day seemed like they'd gone through a politically correct board of standards and practices that removed all spice. Some of history's most confrontational cartoons had changed the world.
Chuck skewered the left and held nothing back. He wasn't polite. He wasn't safe. He never cowered in fear. Syndicates and editors knew he filled a niche, even if they didn't quite know why.
Chuck was never in this for money, though it was his livelihood. He wasn't drawing to gain affection of an audience. Chuck used the talent God gave him to state and defend truth as he understood it. The Bible and Constitution were his guides. He opposed abortion and same-sex marriage, and there was no sense mincing images or words to soften a message for those who didn't want to hear it.
If Chuck annoyed us, we could not ignore his cartoons. He challenged the audience. Even those who disliked his work had to trust it, because it was real. He crafted cartoons selflessly, frequently putting his job on the line by making fellow colleagues uncomfortable - including those who sign the front of payroll checks.
It worked quite well. For most of 45 years, Chuck provided for himself and his family by monetizing a craft few others could market. In 2009, Media Jobs Daily reported fewer than 80 American newspapers continued to employ a staff cartoonist, and the number is fewer by the year.
Chuck worked full time at The Gazette until retiring in late 2007, weeks before the company hired me to run the opinion pages. I was going to work with a man whom I had admired from afar for at least 26 years, only to learn he was leaving.
Chuck's retirement from The Gazette only meant he would become more nationally prominent in full-time syndication. No longer would he juggle topics of national and international concern with conflicts at City Hall.
Great journalists have come and gone from The Gazette. Few have gained more fame, acclaim and notoriety than Chuck. I receive more compliments and complaints about Chuck than anyone else who appears on Gazette opinion pages (Michelle Malkin, you're gaining on him).
Coloradans frequently want Chuck to speak at meetings. The Independence Institute, a Denver think tank, threw an elaborate banquet at the late billionaire Bill Daniels' mansion for no reason other than to honor Chuck's work.
Even fellow journalists who dislike Chuck's positions say they respect and admire the man. He is kind, friendly and professional. He proves that one can stand his ground - resisting whimsical tides of public sentiment - and maintain civilized, respectful relationships with people of opposite minds.
Chuck, thank you for the courage to defend your values in an entertaining and thought-provoking manner. You have made us laugh, made us cry, made us mad and made us think. You have defended the defenseless, comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable - as great journalists should. In doing so, you have left an indelible mark on the Fourth Estate.
Laugesen is editorial page editor of The Gazette. This opinion is not a Gazette editorial and may not represent opinion of management or the editorial board.