H. Mitchell Bliss came to Janesville to take a newspaper job in 1957, beginning a longtime love affair with the community.
Mitch, as most people called him, died Thursday at age 96.
Over the years, Bliss was active with local Optimist clubs and helped found the Janesville Boys & Girls Club and the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame.
Bliss covered police, courts and Janesville City Hall for The Janesville Gazette until 1965, when he was named city editor.
Bliss—no relation to the Bliss family that owned the paper from 1883 to 2019—left The Gazette in 1967 to work in public relations for the State Bar of Wisconsin.
He returned to The Gazette in 1972, was named news editor in 1973 and became the top editor in 1983. He retired in 1989 but continued to write the column Listening Post for the next 15 years.
Retired Gazette reporter Shelly Birkelo, whom Bliss hired in 1977, was a longtime friend. He asked her recently to help him update his obituary.
“He believed in me. I had no college degree. He hired me because he said I worked on the farm, and he knew I would be a hard worker,” Birkelo recalled.
Bliss had worked on his grandfather’s farm in New York as a boy, a time he remembered fondly, according to his daughter, Dena Bliss.
Dena said her father loved his years in journalism and taught writing at UW-Rock County, now UW-Whitewater at Rock County.
“He was all excited when he had to go cover this or cover that or go to The Associated Press convention,” Dena recalled. “Back in the day, I swear, he knew everyone. He loved to nose around.”
Over the years, Bliss was active with the YMCA’s Men’s Club, Janesville Chamber of Commerce and the Easter Seals campaign. He was a faithful volunteer with the Jackson Elementary School Breakfast Club.
Bliss was in the Navy during World War II, starting in 1943. He served as a signalman in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. In his later years, he went on the VetsRoll bus tour to Washington, D.C., and visited Pearl Harbor.
Asked what her father might say in farewell to Janesville, Dena said, “That he just loved the community.”
A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 3, at Milton Lawns Memorial Park in Janesville.