Kenneth F. "Ken" Rystrom Jr.

March 4, 1932 ~ August 4, 2013

Kenneth F. Rystrom, Jr., 81, former editor of The Columbian (Vancouver, WA) editorial page and retired journalism professor, died in Eugene, Oregon, on August 4, 2013, from complications of a stroke six months earlier. Until shortly before his death he had lived in Florence, OR, to be near his children and grandchildren.
He was born in Bayard, Nebraska to Kenneth Rystrom, Sr., and Zella Rystrom (ne' Borland).
Ken published his first newspaper on a toy printing press and received a reprimand from his kindergarten teacher for interviewing the girls for his paper. For a few years in the 1940s, he published the Chimney Rock Press, and learned to be a printer on the Bayard paper. He became an Eagle Scout. In 1954, he was graduated with a Journalism degree and high honors from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where he was named to the Innocents Society, and edited The Daily Nebraskan. He was a Phi Beta Kappa, member of several honorary societies and of Kappa Sigma. He received his Master's in Political Science from University of California, Berkeley, the following year and then served in Korea in the U.S. Army.
He began his adult newspaper career in Vancouver, WA, in 1956, at The Columbian and became an editorial writer for the Des Moines Register and Tribune from 1960-64, moving back to Vancouver to lead The Columbian's editorial page. He received numerous awards for his writing and founded an organization of learning and mutual support for editorial writers in Washington and Oregon. He joined the Mazamas, climbed all but one of the Cascade Mountains, and was an avid backpacker who always had his 1959 wooden mountaineering axe with him.
Rystrom served as president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers (now known as the Association of Opinion Journalists) in 1974 and was named a life member. He contributed a history of the organization to the website, and often wrote for The Masthead, the organization's journal. At the suggestion of the NCEW board, he wrote four editions of "The Why, Who and How of the Editorial Page," the first textbook specifically for editorial writers. He was in the process of finishing the fifth edition, a daunting task considering changes in the newspaper industry. Ken also wrote The Beach-Combers Guide to the Oregon Coast (1992).
Ken left the newspaper field for academe in 1977 and received his PhD in Political Science from the University of Southern California in 1983. He taught editorial writing and other journalism courses at University of Redlands (CA), and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, VA, until his retirement in 1997.
He supported the Presbyterian Church wherever he lived, as a ruling elder and choir member. He was an active member of the American Amateur Press Association, publishing the Sea Watch Press, a successor to his original publication in Nebraska some seventy years earlier. He was a longtime Kiwanian and most special, he performed with The Last Resort Players theater group where he enjoyed acting and being directed by his partner Patricia Romanov.
While living in Florence, Oregon, Ken helped found the Heceta Head Coastal Conference. It is now going to have its 9th conference. The Conference focuses on the ocean and marine life. His love of the coast inspired him to be active in the Ocean Shores Conservation Coalition. He published and distributed their newsletter and monitored 'his' mile of Oregon coast.
Dr. Rystrom is survived by a sister, Barbara Rystrom Pyle; daughters, Anne McCoy, Margaret Rystrom and Vicki Rystrom; grandchildren, Jason and Bruce Walker, Jennifer and Randall Rystrom, Samuel, Emily, Charles and Cora McCoy; two great-grandchildren; his partner, Patricia Romanov; and former wife, Sally Hall Petersen.
Services are pending. Contact the Siuslaw Presbyterian Church in Florence for details at 541-997-7136.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Ocean Shores Conservation Coalition (, to the Last Resort Players, the local community theater (P.O. Box 2104, Florence, OR 97439) and to Presbyterian Church of the Siuslaw (3996 Highway 101 N Florence, OR 97439) or Cascade Manor Foundation (
Cards or letters to the family may be sent to Anne McCoy, PO Box 2442, Clackamas, OR 97015.
Please sign his guestbook at:

Published in The Columbian on Sept. 1, 2013