Ira Hocut, our good friend, and the longtime production manager for the Arkansas Times, died early Monday morning from heart failure. He was 54.
Ira arrived at the Arkansas Times 35 years ago in a Yellow Cab. He was legally blind and couldn't drive but he had learned to paste up his Sylvan Hills High School newspaper by touching his forehead to the glass of the lightboard and placing his eyes a fraction of an inch from the copy where he could see clearly. I always took a perverse pride in telling people we had the only legally blind newspaper production manager in America.
Like the rest of us, Ira was willing to work for free so he was hired on the spot, dividing his time between the newspaper and his real job as maintenance supervisor at M.M. Cohn.
Perhaps because of his poor eyesight, Ira was meticulous. He never made a mistake. When it came to missed deadlines, poor communication or lousy paperwork, Ira could display all the patience of a high school football coach during two-a-days. A couple of generations of sales people were educated in this fashion.
Ira was a deacon at Second Baptist Church and was a great dancer. In our younger days, he was the big man in the faux-suede sport coat on the dance floor late at night at the Checkmate Club. Usually he was the biggest man on the floor but moved with the grace of a gymnast.
About 15 years ago Ira and his wife Caron began the arduous process of trying to adopt a child, a process that led them a couple of years later to China and their beautiful daughter Joy. Editor Max Brantley recalled, “What I'll miss most was his call on the intercom, ‘Joy, report to your battle station.' [Meaning, come to dad's desk.] His daughter spent many hours of her childhood here, playing with the other staff members' kids and the dogs and cats that the Times always has welcomed. She'd wander from office to office, showing off her latest school costume or art work and selling school candy. She truly was his Joy and remains ours and a worthy memory of him.”
Ultimately Ira was one of our stalwarts, one of the people without whom this journalistic effort would have perished in its crib. The Thursday before he died he called one of the editors from his hospital bed to tell her he would be doing the dummy for the next issue as usual. He told her he was sick but was still part of the Arkansas Times.
We miss you so very much Ira.