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John Adams loved to work as a newspaper reporter and he loved to fish. On his best days, the longtime Santa Rosan did both.

Adams wrote for The Press Democrat from 1961 through 2005. At various times he covered Santa Rosa City Hall and the education beat, and he wrote all manner of feature and breaking-news stories and more than his share of obituaries.

But the Army veteran and lifelong outdoorsman seemed to relish most writing about fishing in the column he began after the retirement of his friend and mentor, PD fish-and-game columnist Walt Christensen.

Retired Press Democrat news editor and reporter Bob Klose remembers the day that late Editor-in-Chief Art Volkerts, also an avid North Coast fisherman, stepped to the reporter’s desk and said, “Adams, your body’s here but your mind is on the Russian River.”

Adams died Tuesday at a Santa Rosa hospital. He was 81.

His daughter, Valerie Adams of Santa Rosa, said that even though he wrote his final news story for The Press Democrat in 1998 and his last fishing column in 2005, he still kept stacks and stacks of old reporter’s notebooks.

“He always had a curious nature; he loved being a reporter,” she said.

John Ralph Adams was born to a highly mobile Army family in Anacortes, Washington, in 1935. He wrote six years ago in his own obituary that he “came to pride himself on having passed through 42 states by the time he was in the eighth grade.”

He completed high school in Florence, Oregon, then enrolled at Monterey Peninsula College, where he met Maryanne Crivello.

Said their daughter, “The story was that my dad was in a journalism class and my mom was editor of the school paper.” They married in 1957.

John Adams went on to earn a degree in journalism from San Jose State College in 1959. Immediately after graduation, he was drafted into the Army and served a tour of duty in Korea.

Shortly after his discharge, he was hired onto the news staff at The Press Democrat.

“He was a solid chronicler of current events, gaining the respect of both the school district administration and city government officials with straightforward reportage,” said Gaye LeBaron, the PD columnist and author of Santa Rosa history books.

“John was dedicated to journalism, but none the less to fishing. Like others on the staff who knew the good spot on the river, he would be out and away after deadline when the steelhead were running,” she said.

Klose remembered Adams as “a hardworking, dependable reporter” and a loyal member of the Newspaper Guild.

“When I was working on the city desk now and then and needed something done at the last minute, I’d circle the newsroom until I arrived at Adams’ desk. He’d sigh, stop what he was doing and say: ‘Yes? What is it now?’

“I’d say something like: ‘You busy?’

“He’d engage in a little theater, fan through a stack of press releases and notes he had hoped to rewrite for the newspaper, and then hold out his hand: ‘What do you have?’

“And he’d do it.”

In his free time, Adams most liked fishing with his son, John Anthony Adams of Chico, and spending time with his wife, daughter and three grandchildren. He donated more than 22 gallons of blood and supported what is now the Boys and Girls Club.

Maryanne Adams died in 2007. As he recovered from losing her, John Adams took walks around Spring Lake and he taught ping-pong to seniors at the Finley Center.

His daughter said he’d been hospitalized at the Kaiser Santa Rosa Medical Center since early July with an infection of the small intestine and other rare side effects from an immunosuppressive medication. In addition to herself, her brother and the grandchildren, she said, her dad is survived by his best friend, Toby the cat.

No public services are planned.

Adams’ family suggests memorial donations to Forgotten Felines, 1814 Empire Industrial Court, Unit F, Santa Rosa 95403; the Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Ave., Montgomery, Alabama, 36104, or the American Civil Liberties Union, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor, New York, New York, 10004.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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