Pocklington, former columnist, dies at 88

Published 10:37 pm Friday, February 28, 2014

World War II vet stormed Normandy, City Hall

Newspaper columnist, political blogger and city hall critic Robert Pocklington passed away Friday morning at the age of 88.

Health had failed in recent years for the World War II veteran who stormed the beaches of Normandy. Even so, daughter Leslie Peterfeso said Friday, the death was sudden.

Pocklington

Pocklington

“He went down fighting,” she said. “He was in a lot of pain the last couple years.”

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Pocklington was a Michigan native and member of the Lions Club in his hometown of Algonac. He got his start as a newspaper columnist there, writing about the club’s activities for the hometown paper.

“He always had something to say about everything,” Peterfeso said.

He was a combat engineer in the Army during the second World War, and his military service was a frequent topic of his columns when he wasn’t writing about city government. Peterfeso said she has been working with him on writing down his battle tales.

Several years ago, Pocklington went on an Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II memorial. He was a frequent visitor to Bunny’s Restaurant for breakfast with other veterans the first Wednesday of every month.

Professionally, he was a financial consultant at New York Life Insurance Company until his retirement, which freed him up for other activities. He was a gardener and dabbled in acrylics painting, Peterfeso said.

To many Suffolk residents, however, he was known as a columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald and the founder of the Inside Suffolk blog, which frequently criticized city government but also targeted state and federal government and sometimes featured Pocklington’s war stories. The blog’s last post was in 2011, when Pocklington said his health was too poor to keep the blog going.

“It meant a lot to him,” Peterfeso said of the blog. “He checked it several times a day.”

Dennis Pike, another of the Inside Suffolk team, said he was sad to hear the news.

“He was a bright spot shining light on the politics of the day,” Pike said, noting the city’s propensity for using assessments to give effective tax hikes was a particular concern of the group. “We tried our best, but I don’t think that you could call our effort a success. The success we did have, I think we really owed to Bob.”

Mayor Linda T. Johnson said while she and Pocklington often had a difference of opinion, she thought a lot of him.

“Mr. Pocklington and I had many great conversations over the years,” she said. “I would go online and read his stuff all the time. He had a great personality.”

Councilman Mike Duman has been a neighbor of the Pocklingtons since the early 1980s. His neighbor’s writings in the paper, in part, spurred Duman’s interest in city government, he said.

“I think he provided a lot of food for thought when he was commenting in the paper, and that was before I ever thought about becoming involved in it,” Duman said.

Pocklington was a regular guest on former mayor Andy Damiani’s “Roundtable Talk” television show.

“He liked to talk about the government,” Damiani said. “At one time he was gung-ho on them. He kept everybody on their toes, and he was sincere in what he believed in. Sometimes you need somebody like that.”

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Gertrud Sophie Horstmann Pocklington, three daughters and sons-in-law, five grandchildren, one great-grandchild and a brother. A visitation and service will be held at Parr Funeral Home on Tuesday beginning at 3 p.m.