Edward Weston Baumann, 86, journalist, author, railroader, road builder, world traveler and circus roust-about, died November 6, 2012 at his daughter's house in Paxton, Indiana. He began his newspaper career with the Waukegan News-Sun after World War II military service in the South Pacific. Six years later he found himself working at the legendary Hildig "Hildy" Johnson's old desk as Criminal Courts reporter for the fabled Chicago Daily News.
A lifelong Kenoshan, he was born December 31, 1925, the oldest son of the late Irvin and Mabel (Austerland) Baumann. His father, a one-time semi-pro baseball player and amputee veteran of World War I, was the tax assessor; his mother had been a suffragette.
Baumann was a 1944 graduate of Mary D. Bradford High School. As a youth he was active in the Sons of the American Legion (SAL), and headed the Kenosha Squadron in 1943. He was also a drummer in the SAL drum and bugle corps.
His first full time job, at age 16, was head doorman at the Kenosha Theatre for $10 a week. While still in high school he also worked full-time as a freight handler for the Chicago & North Western Railroad until entering the military service.
After volunteering for induction on his 18th birthday, Baumann served as a cryptographer, enciphering and deciphering codes for the Army Air Corps in New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies and Philippines. In 1945 he was disciplined while stationed at an emergency landing strip behind Japanese lines on Northern Luzon, when he traded identities with an air crewman and flew as a waist gunner on an air-sea rescue mission over the China Sea. He won three battle starts for the New Guinea and Philippine Island campaigns, and was discharged with the rank of sergeant. From 1946-1952 he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve, and subsequently in the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
While serving with the Air Corps in California before shipping overseas, Baumann worked full time on the midnight shift at peach canneries in Sacramento, which paid military personnel 90 cents an hour to help ease the manpower shortage. After the war he worked for five years as an asphalt mixer operator and highway construction laborer while attending the University of Wisconsin, where he attained a journalism degree.
Baumann signed on as a reporter for the Waukegan News-Sun from 1951-1956; specializing in crime and politics. From 1956-1963 he was employed by the Chicago Daily News as Criminal Courts reporter, where he covered executions, rewriteman and assistant city editor. When the News changed ownership Baumann "crossed the street" to the Chicago American, where he served as city editor until 1970, when he was named administrative assistant to the publisher. When that newspaper ceased publication in 1974 he joined The Chicago Tribune as senior staff writer.
News subjects whom he counted among his person friends over the years included fan dancer Sally Rand, Africa adventuress Joy Adamson, con man Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil, burglar Joseph "Pops" Panczko, super cop Jack Muller, kill cop Frank Pape, singer Dinah Shore, writer Ben Hecht, actress Helen Hayes, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, and six Illinois governors. He covered every beat, including going aloft in the Goodyear Blimp, and down in a submarine.
A three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, Baumann won the Chicago Newspaper Guild's Stick-O-Type Awards for investigative reporting in 1953 and 1959, and was named Lake County Newsman of the Year in 1959. Articles he wrote for the Tribune won first place in the Illinois Associated Press News Writing Contests in 1975 and 1976; and he won the Tribune's first Special Writing Award for Professionalist Under Deadline Pressure in 1977.
Throughout a journalism career that spanned four decades, Baumann commuted daily to Chicago, traveling the equivalent of 42 times around the world. Upon his retirement in 1988 the Chicago Press Veterans Association honored him as Chicago Press Veteran of the Year. He was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 2001 and given the Chicago Headline Club's prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. He received the Kenosha Bradford Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004.
Although living in Kenosha, Baumann served as president of the 2,400-member Chicago Press Club (1974); chairman of the Chicago Press Veterans Association (1977 and 1978); director of the raffish Chicago Newspaper Reporters Association, and Vice President and board member of the elite Merry Gangsters Literary Society. He also served three terms as President of the Board of Friends of the Museum; was a sustaining member of CUSH (Congregations United to Serve Humanity), and was a member of the International Press Club of Chicago, Chicago Newspaper Veterans, Mystery Writers of America, Society of Midland Authors, Milwaukee Press Club, the AACS Alumni of Air Corps veterans, Kenosha County Historical Society, the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, National Railroad Museum, Green Bay, and the Circus Fans Association of America.
He was a founding member of the MAGGOTS, a fellowship society for men and women in the news media that was a throwback to Chicago's rollicking, hard-drinking Front Page Era, and was co-founder of the Chicago Daily News Breakfast Club. He was also the founder of The Late Edition, a newsletter for former employees of the Chicago American. He was the originator and editor locally of "Home Town Update," a chatty newsletter for high school friends of the '40s now living in other parts of the country.
He was a life member of Junker-Ball Post 1865, Veteran of Foreign Wars; American Legion Post 21, and a lifetime member and former deacon of Trinity Lutheran Church. He was a former member of the Brotherhood of American Railway Employees (BARE), the Hod Carrier's Union, the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and the Chicago Editorial Association.
Baumann was the author or co-author of 10 true crime books, and more than 300 detective magazine articles published internationally. A world traveler who visited 34 countries and 46 states, Baumann's other interests included power boating, antiques and carpentry - he once build his own three-bedroom home from the ground up. His most prized antiques included an ornate mirror from a New Orleans brothel, and a moonshiner's still in his back yard.
Baumann married Ann Cacciapaglio of Rockford while in college. That union was dissolved, and he married Caroline Skeels Karber of St. Louis in 1959. After Caroline died of cancer at age 47, Baumann married the former Lenore (Schend) Leonard in the chapel at Carthage College in 1976.
With his wife Lenore, he was involved in community volunteer work, including the INNS homeless shelter; the Shalom Center Soup Kitchen, Friends of the Museum, Kenosha Art Fair, and the Kenosha Theatre rehabilitation project. In 1992, at the age of 66, he realized every boy's ambition and "ran away to join the circus." For the next 13 summers he and his wife were Circus World Museum volunteers on the Great Circus Parade grounds in Milwaukee, where Baumann worked as a cowboy, roustabout and animal handler.
Baumann is survived by a son, Corey, in Ironwood, Michigan, three step-daughters, Lisa (David) McCammon, Paxton, Indiana; Leslie Ferraro, Makanda, Illinois, and Carole (Wayne) Reid, Lincoln, California; 12 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandson. His daughter Amy Cairo, a brother, Theodore, and a step-brother, Richard, preceded him in death.
A private service of Christian committal will be held at Mr. Baumann's grave site at Sunset Ridge Memorial Park. He will be accorded full military honors.