Greg Freeman, 1956-2002 

Worm bids farewell to a friend

Worm left St. Louis to seek fame and fortune. His cats didn't share Worm's optimism, so Worm left them behind. Rocky moved in with a new owner in North County and was never heard from again. Bullwinkle ended up with Worm's friends Greg and Elizabeth Freeman. Greg turned Bullwinkle into fodder for his Post-Dispatch column. As a result, Bullwinkle received the fame and glory that long eluded Worm.

Bullwinkle wasn't the only cat to get star treatment in Freeman's column, a fact the Riverfront Times poked fun at. Greg smiled at the RFT's gibes and would point out that his cat columns generated more reader response than anything the RFT published. Greg was a fan of this newspaper, more specifically of D.J. Wilson's former "Short Cuts" column. A few months ago, he called to praise a Wilson column on John Carney and an angry KMOX-AM advertiser. "I died laughing," he guffawed. "A really funny piece. You know, you're giving Jerry Berger a run for his money -- except your story is accurate."

Not just the big St. Louis-loving cuddly bear depicted in eulogies, Greg was a fighter. As an undergrad, when he was rejected for a gig as a department-store Santa -- he had the physique and the requisite good nature -- he wrote a blistering column declaring that Christmas, by God, ought to be colorblind. Fair play was always foremost for Greg, and that didn't change when, after years of hard work, he became a columnist for his hometown newspaper.

The job came with a heavy burden of expectations. Greg grew up here and knew how deficient the Post was in covering local news. He'd complain to friends when the paper -- the newspaper he loved -- missed a story or when a tip he passed to colleagues wasn't pursued. It angered him that so many talented colleagues who'd felt the sting of the newspaper's good-ol'-white-boy culture went elsewhere to shine.

But Greg didn't bail, and he didn't just sit on the sidelines: He spoke out, pressed his editors, never gave up. It wasn't just talk -- through his entire career, even when cancer, kidney failure and muscular dystrophy took their toll, Greg mentored dozens of aspiring young journalists. The Post wasn't big enough for his interests, so he served the city as the host of popular public-affairs programs.

Greg knew who was naughty and who was nice, but he cared for 'em all the same.

That's why people who barely knew him feel they've lost a friend.

That's why it's a good thing Worm has five hearts, because at least one of 'em is broken.

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