Erik Leroy Ness, 57, a long time native New Mexico newsman, passed away on May 12. He was born and raised in Alamogordo, New Mexico during the height of the Space Race. Both parents, Carl and Marie Ness were involved in that endeavor. He graduated from Alamogordo High School in 1972, learning from teachers who inspired him to be a writer. His memory of seeing the Wonderful World of Disney in color on television also sparked an acute interest in radio and television broadcasting. He attended the University of New Mexico until his brains grew in, and he was lured by the smell of alfalfa and a really good journalism department to New Mexico State University. At NMSU he was part of their legendary film program under the direction of Dr. Orville Wanzer, and produced a long series of black and white and color films. While attending NMSU he worked as operations manager for radio station KGRT and was one of the founders of campus radio station, KNMS, "Ozone Ranger Radio". He also served as a news stringer for Albuquerque news stations, KOB, KOAT, and KGGM and was a southern New Mexico correspondent for 50,000 watt KKOB radio. Outside of journalism Erik worked on over 100 political campaigns including the position of press secretary for Attorney General of New Mexico. After graduating from NMSU he worked as news director for KDQQ and KKOB radio as news reporter and anchorman. In 1981 he was went to work for New Mexico Farm Bureau as their director of communications and media relations, where he was twice recognized as the nation's most effective agriculture public relations spokesman as well as the recipient of numerous national awards for broadcast commentary, broadcast features, and broadcast news productions. In addition, he received many awards for his print writing skills and unusual "wordsmithing". He also worked for the American Farm Bureau Federation as a national broadcast commentator on the groundbreaking radio show "Insight!". Many of Erik's commentaries were used by Paul Harvey on his ABC broadcast. He served as president of New Mexico Press Club and the Advertising Federation of Southern New Mexico. He also served as a board member of Cowboys for Cancer Research. He retired from the New Mexico Farm Bureau in 2010 after but continued to write columns for the National Farm Bureau in addition to media consulting for the Elephant Butte Irrigation District. Erik was an award winning song writer and music producer and recording artist. He worked with many of the nation's leading songwriters and bands in the southwest and Nashville. He's the winner of the American Collegiate Talent Search (ACTS) which was judged by singer/songwriter Michael Martin Murphy. At that time he and Murphy became close friends, collaborators, conspirators, calculators in the world of cowboy and country music. He was able to travel with Murphy all over the country and experience all sides of music and show business world. Erik and Murph just finished their latest song together, "Law and Order on the Border". Most of Erik's recording was done at the legendary studio, Goldust, in Las Cruces, New Mexico under the tutelage of recording engineer and producer, Emmett Brooks. Erik was preceded in death by his parents, Carl and Marie Ness of Alamogordo. He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Sharon Sumner; sons, Erik and Garrett of the family home; daughter, Emily Gaffney, husband, Thomas and grandson, Conner of Albuquerque; sisters, Caryl Ann Gutheinz and husband, Lee of Albuquerque, Linda Gulley and husband, Jim of Alamogordo. Friends are invited to a celebration of Erik's life to be held May 18 at 1:30 at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. Sign the guest book www.lapaz-grahams.com
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Published in Las Cruces Sun-News on May 16, 2012