John Weston Machacek
On July 24, 2020, John Machacek, Cedar Rapids native, loving husband, proud father, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist died at age 80 from stroke complications. He was at home, surrounded by family.
John was born Feb. 18, 1940, in Cedar Rapids, to Wesley and Mary Agnes Machacek. He attended Immaculate Conception School, where he started his first newspaper in the eighth grade. This kicked off a "newspaper war" with another classmate as they hand wrote their dueling papers in notebooks. John was later editor of the IC yearbook and a stringer for the Cedar Rapids Gazette sports section.
At Marquette University Journalism School (1962), John was editor of The Marquette Tribune. He got his professional start at the then Milwaukee Sentinel and the Knickerbocker News in Albany, N.Y., and went on to become a news reporter at the Times-Union in Rochester, N.Y. There, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for his coverage of the Attica prison riots. Soon after, he landed a journalism fellowship at Stanford University. In the early 1980s, John moved to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area for the remainder of his career as the New York regional correspondent for Gannett News Service. In 2016, Marquette's Journalism School honored John with the By-Line Award for his career work.
Behind the newspaperman was his family. On Sept. 16, 1967, John made the best decision of his life by marrying Mary Anna Smith, his wife of 52 years. Together they raised daughters, Sarah and Rachel.
John was a history buff, policy wonk, salt water beach lover, Sunday brunch maker (pancakes ready before or after "The McLaughlin Group" aired), and, later in life, a dedicated cat dad, which surprised him and everyone around him. He was quiet, kind, particular, humble, sly with his humor, and could not be rushed, whether it was framing the perfect family photo with his old Nikon or picking out paint colors for his home.
John also loved sports. It started with baseball, specifically the Cleveland Indians as a kid. He even tried to teach his brother baseballto no avail. However, John modeled a way to be honest, decent, and kind for his brother, traits John's friends and colleagues would later remember in him. And as far as sports, John went on to cheer for the Washington Nationals baseball team but perhaps loved Marquette basketball the best. There were few Golden Eagles games he did not watch.
John is survived by his wife, Mary Anna; daughters, Sarah and Rachel (Eric Axelson); brother, Jim Machacek (Jerry Ammer); brother-in-law, Bill (Cheryl) Smith; and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Wesley and Agnes; and his sister, Marilyn Peck.
Due to COVID-19, John's memorial service in Washington, D.C., is on hold until his church
re-opens. When it is safe to travel, family will plan
a service at his family's burial plot in Cedar Rapids.
In lieu of flowers, family is requesting donations
to the Freedom of the Press Foundation (freedom.press/donate/) in honor of John's
commitment to journalism, truth telling, and the public's right to know.
To read more about John's Pulitzer and his
career, click here: www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2020/07/27/john-machacek-dies-obituary-gannett-reporter-won-pulitzer-prize-attica-prison-coverage/5512785002/