PROVO — The day I first met Kurt Kragthorpe the sun had yet to make its way over the east mountains and Provo was blanketed in darkness. Only street lights cast shadows on the parking lot stalls outside the newsroom of the Provo Daily Herald on Freedom Avenue.
He was a skinny, bushy-haired Provo High School student who came to the newsroom before his classes began to put in an hour of work. At the time we may have paid him $35 for six days work doing this job of winding the one-inch perforated tape that The Associated Press and United Press International wire machines spat out of a noisy teletype box.
Those mornings, Kragthorpe was there with Bob Hudson and me, preparing the newsroom to wake up for the day. The young Provo Bulldog was getting his foot in the journalism door.
Kurt’s job was to match this tape with the printed stories typed by the pre-digital age machine that interpreted the holes in the paper tape for human eyes. On other nights, he covered high school games for $15 a night and his expenses for transportation were not covered.
Fast forward to 2020. Kragthorpe announced his retirement as a longtime sports editor, columnist, and most recently, beat writer for The Salt Lake Tribune. He’d had similar jobs and duties at the Deseret News and Logan Herald-Journal. His career spanned four decades and he had courtside and midfield seats to some of the greatest moments in Utah sports history, be it professional or collegiate events.
He never forgot his roots. He never shirked his duties, never kissed off a deadline or gave an editor attitude. His career is filled with the fabric of Americana, the high school gym, the All-American athlete, the underdogs, goats and heroes of the games we play.
Over those decades, Kragthorpe became known as the consummate professional journalist, fair and unbiased as one could be in this business, always present, and always a protector of the budget of his employer. In time, he has become the sports community’s keeper of history, a science he respected and basically owned in our sports business.
A humble, kind, always friendly but quiet man, he never changed from those early mornings at the Provo paper.
We all have our Kragthorpe stories. He was famous for saving money.
I remember one Maui Classic back in the Roger Reid days, he asked if he could stay in the condo with me and KSL radio voice Paul James, and we agreed. He then asked if I could pick him up at the airport in Maui and I agreed. But we didn’t speak that week and when I got to the airport, I waited for two hours for him to appear. He never did. He’d apparently found a way to the condo. Once there, he slept on the couch. At an Aloha Bowl in Honolulu in the ‘90s, he asked if he could stay with me and we shared a Christmas Day away from all our families.
There’s the time he went to the Mountain West Conference tournament at the Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas. He got off the plane at McCarran International and pulled his roller suitcase off the property, across Tropicana Avenue to the arena. He didn’t want to spend company money on a rental car because others on his staff already had one.
Kurt is a legend and an inspiration. He was a gifted writer and reporter and it sounds like this is his obituary. But fortunately, he has a passion that will not die and he will continue to write golf stories for his paper and Fairways magazine, the voice of the Utah Golf Association.
Kurt and I most recently served on the UGA’s Hall of Fame committee and at the time I didn’t know he was counting down the days he’d step away from daily deadlines and the grind of our chosen profession.
Said Randy Dodson, publisher of Fairways, “For nearly 30 years we have enjoyed our relationship with Kurt. There’re a handful of sports journalists in Utah that have added instant creditability to our publications and Kurt is at the forefront of that group in addition to being just one of the fun good guys to hang around with.”
I always thought Kurt had the perfect voice for broadcasting. He had that projection thing. But he did just fine with the keyboard every time he pushed the keys and hit return.
I’ll never forget a remarkable 5-wood approach shot he hit on Riverside Country Club’s par-5 No. 7 two summers ago. It traveled 180 yards to within five feet of the pin, where our media group carded a birdie.
Kurt had the luxury of working as a columnist covering a myriad of sports, all the local colleges and high schools and his brush cut a broad stroke on his canvas. That created friendships across all rivalries and cliques.
Since the days before sunrise, I’m glad Kurt isn’t totally riding off into the sunset. Fairways and birdies, my friend. You did it your way and it was good enough.