OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Rob Hiaasen, affectionately known as Big Rob, knew that his nickname was due to his stature. His friends and family know it also had a lot to do with his big heart and the big smiles he left in his wake.
Hiaasen, 59, was remembered Monday night in a Celebration of Life ceremony. Hiassen was the Assistant Managing Editor at the Capital Gazette and was killed in the attack that left 5 employees of the paper in Annapolis dead.
Hiaasen is survived by his wife, brother, sister and three adult children. Close to 500 people attended the ceremony at the Irvine Nature Center in Baltimore County.
Hiaasen made friends everywhere he went. He grew up in Florida. His childhood friend since the 4th grade, Paul Stiff, remembers how he would always say hello and showed sensitivity all the way back in the 7th grade.
Friends Hiaasen made at papers like the Baltimore Sun remember him as a talented writer who would many times relish finding the “odd balls” of Maryland to center his stories around.
“He was the first person to listen to you, first person to encourage you to do a story, and the first person in the newsroom to compliment you on a story,” remembered Kevin Cowherd, who worked with Hiaasen when he was still a general assignments reporter.
Eventually Hiaasen moved into management and became an editor. He also became and educator, helping young writers hone their craft.
His most important role was as a father. His daughter Sam remembered one road trip in which Big Rob kept her laughing the whole way home. His son Ben read a passage from a journal his father gave him for graduation. It was mixed with funny ramblings and words of wisdom.
Hiaasen’s wife Maria was once in the news business as well. The couple celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary a week and a half ago. She lost her husband on her birthday.