1934 - 2012
Journalist and author Arthur Matthew Zich died at his home in Arcata, Calif., on July 30, 2012. He was 77.
Born in Plainfield, N.J. to Teresa Casey Zich and Arthur Matthew Zich, Sr., Art graduated from Holy Trinity High School in Hackensack and from Dartmouth College, where he joined Delta Kappa Epsilon. In 1958, he completed the USAF 12-month intensive course in Chinese at the Yale Institute of Far Eastern Languages and then served in Okinawa as a Chinese linguist.
A lifelong scholar, journalism captured him because it allowed him to keep learning. He was a sports reporter for Life, skiing and sailing writer for Sports Illustrated, and a correspondent for Time-Life News Service, first in San Francisco and then in Hong Kong. He covered the beginnings of both the war in Vietnam and the Marcos administration in the Philippines (and later covered the end of the Marcos era for National Geographic). Returning to New York, he joined Newsweek as a national affairs writer.
Art was a Professional Journalism Fellow at Stanford University in 1974-75. His fellowship year gave him the boost - personal, professional, and academic - to go freelance. He later wrote Time-Life Books' The Rising Sun for its World War II series and was a frequent contributor to National Geographic. His work was anthologized in From the Field, edited by Charles McCarry, and The Violent Peace, edited by Carl and Shelley Mydans.
He cared about his work. One of his first articles for National Geographic was about the Japanese-American experience during World War II. As a kid from New Jersey, he knew nothing about the forced incarceration of American citizens of Japanese descent on the West Coast. As he learned, he became outraged at American racism camouflaged as wartime patriotism. Reporting his last article for National Geographic, about the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, he was dismayed by the Chinese government's apparent lack of concern for its people, environment, and archeological heritage.
In the 1990s, when he was not in the field, Art was a semi-pro cartoonist for the Half Moon Bay Review, a Northern California weekly. His work earned a "best" award from the California Newspaper Publishers Association and - to his delight -the ire of the local government.
Art was a meticulous reporter and a graceful writer. He loved wine, women, and song, his family, Asia, big silly dogs, sailing, woodworking, Martin guitars, the New York Times crossword puzzle, and Chinese cooking and calligraphy.
He moved to Humboldt County, Calif. in 2003 to watch his grandchildren blossom.
He leaves his wife of 50 years, Janet Pitbladdo Zich, of Arcata; his daughter, Dr. Karen Reiss, son-in-law, Dr. John Reiss, and grandchildren Owen Matthew and Zoe Teresa Reiss, of Bayside, Calif.; and his sister and brother-in-law, Patricia Zich Worthen and Dale Worthen, of Trenton, Maine.
His family will scatter his ashes in the Pacific Ocean, hoping a part of him may find its way back to Asia. They plan a celebration of his life in October 2012.
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Published by New York Times from Aug. 28 to Aug. 29, 2012.