OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Days after newspaper editor Rob Hiaasen and four colleagues were shot to death by a gunman in the Capital Gazette’s newsroom, an overflow crowd gathered at a Maryland nature center on Monday evening to remember the man they loved in stories, poems, and songs.
Hannah Hiaasen, his youngest daughter, said the family called him “Big Rob” — a nickname that perfectly fit the journalist who stood 6-foot-5. But it wasn’t just his height that made the nickname ring true to those who knew him best.
“He was six five so it made sense, but also he had a really, really big heart,” she said, before reading a poem in her dad’s honor.
Kevin Cowherd, an author who worked with Hiaasen for years at The Baltimore Sun, described him as an open, fun-loving man who found humor in everything. As a writer, he was versatile and drawn to the quirky. As a colleague, he was kind and encouraging.
Cowherd and others said they would remember Hiaasen for how he lived, rather than the way he died senselessly at the hands of a gunman twisted by hate and festering rage.
“I want to just remember what a wonderful person Rob was and what a great, wonderful, selfless life he led,” said Cowherd, one of several speakers who addressed the crowd assembled beneath a large white tent.
The Baltimore-based novelist Anne Tyler, whose works include “The Accidental Tourist” and the Pulitzer-prize-winning “Breathing Lessons,” joined his family and colleagues to honor the friend she says she already misses.
“I loved him dearly. I thought he was smart and funny and wise,” Tyler told The Associated Press shortly before the gathering began.
Hiaasen had just celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary with his wife, Maria, whose birthday was on the day of the newsroom attack. A 38-year-old man has been charged with five counts of murder.
The slain journalist’s brother is Carl Hiaasen, a prolific novelist and a longtime Miami Herald columnist.
Jarrod Warren Ramos was arrested by police after the attack Thursday. He faces five counts of first-degree murder.
Ramos, 38, has a well-documented history of harassing the paper’s journalists. He filed a defamation suit in 2012 that was thrown out as groundless and often railed against them in profanity-laced tweets.