BANGOR, Maine — Kalil “Ki” Ayoob, who spent 53 years in the newspaper business in the Queen City and retired in 1990 after nearly 44 years with the Bangor Daily News, died Saturday in Philadelphia. He was 94.
Ayoob, who grew up in Framingham, Mass., and graduated from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, arrived in Bangor in 1937 to work for the Bangor Daily Commercial, where he started as a reporter but quickly moved up the ladder to serve as an editor.
Those who knew him said the correct use of the English language was his lifelong passion, and editing was in his blood.
“He was a stickler for proper grammar and spelling,” his son, Randy Ayoob, said by phone on Monday. “I didn’t look forward to having him edit or read my reports.”
World War II and a stint in the U.S. Army took Ki Ayoob away from the state and the newspaper industry, and when he returned in 1946 he joined the Bangor Daily News. He spent more than four decades at the paper in a variety of roles, including as city editor and copy desk chief. He ended his career as a writing coach for the newspaper.
“He has edited thousands of stories, caught thousands of errors before they got into print and corrected tens of thousands of misspelled words,” a June 9, 1990, Bangor Daily News story about his retirement said. “Through it all, he has remained steadfast or even dogmatic in two areas: Nothing is more important to the writer than accuracy; nothing is worse than ‘sloppy writing.’”
Ayoob was a consummate professional editor, according to Mark Woodward, former executive editor for the Bangor Daily News, who said Ayoob was his first editor when he started at the paper in 1971.
When “people imagine a newspaper editor at his desk with a pencil in his hand laboring over syntax and spelling — that is the image of Ki,” Woodward said.
Kent Ward, a former assistant managing editor at the BDN and now a columnist at the paper, has fond memories of his former editor, whom he described as “a beacon of calmness in the midst of an often hectic newsroom.”
“As city editor for so many years, Ki was the epitome of the solid old-time newsman plying his trade in those halcyon days before the computer replaced typewriter and glue pot, dramatically changing the newspaper business forever,” he said Monday in an e-mail.
Ki Ayoob watched as typewriters morphed into electric machines that were later replaced by computers.
During his five decades working in newsrooms in the Queen City, Ayoob covered a number of stories that have become a part of the region’s history. That list includes the downfall of the infamous Brady Gang in 1937 and the nine-day saga when a young Donn Fendler was lost on Mount Katahdin in 1939.
He got to shout, “Stop the presses,” in April 1980 when a U.S. military mission to rescue 52 American hostages who had been held at the U.S. Embassy in Iran for six months ended disastrously, Ward recalled.
“It is not something that happens that often, outside of Hollywood,” he said.
The day Central Street ran red with the blood of the notorious Brady Gang, Ayoob had just finished breakfast at the nearby New Atlantic Restaurant on Main Street.
“Somebody hollered, ‘There’s been a shooting!’” he recalled in an Oct. 4, 1997, Bangor Daily News story. “We followed the crowd rushing to the scene. It looked like the running of the bulls in Spain.”
The 21-year-old state editor for the Bangor Daily Commercial gathered details about the FBI shooting of mobsters Al Brady and Clarence Lee Shaffer Jr. and the capture of Rhuel James Dalhover. He ran back to the newspaper to put together a special edition that went to press in just hours, the story states.
“That was a baptism by fire,” said Dick Shaw, a local historian who worked at the Bangor Daily News with Ayoob from 1976 until Ayoob’s retirement.
Shaw said the two kept in touch, even after Ayoob began to have health problems and moved in February 2009 to Philadelphia to be near his son.
“We wanted to be able to spoil him,” his daughter-in-law, Robin Ayoob, said on Monday. “He loved sweets. We kept him in full cookie supply.”
Until his dying days, Ayoob continued to scan the newspapers daily with his pencil.
“He went over the paper line by line every day,” Shaw said.
Ayoob suffered a heart attack on Thursday and died on Saturday morning, his son said.
“He’ll not be soon forgotten by those who had the pleasure of working with him to put out a daily newspaper,” Ward said.
A graveside service will be held for Ayoob at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Brewer. He will be buried alongside his wife, Eleanor, who died on June 2, 2003.