Tim Cuprisin left behind humor, intelligence, laughter
It's Skin Cancer Awareness Week on OnMilwaukee.com, dedicated to the memory of our colleague, Tim Cuprisin, who died of melanoma last fall. Melanoma kills 9,100 Americans each year, but together, we can beat it. All week long, we're bringing you survivor stories, prevention plans and breakthroughs to make skin cancer a disease of the past. We've also set up a fund in memory of Tim and urge you to donate here. Skin Cancer Awareness Week is sponsored by the Dermatology Associates of Wisconsin. Enjoy the Milwaukee summer, but be safe and smart in the sun!
To say that Tim Cuprisin touched people's lives would be an understatement. Tim – who was a media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com until he passed away on Nov. 23, 2011 – left a deep, non-refillable imprint on everyone in his life.
Tim was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in March 2011. He and his life partner, Sharon Boeldt, went on to fight with passion and vigilance, and over the eight-month battle endured chemo, radiation, a new drug called Yervoy, trips to the University of Chicago and the Mayo Clinic, an unexpected pulmonary embolism and the heartbreak of not qualifying for any clinical trials.
"Tim had his sense of humor throughout everything," Sharon said during a recent lunch outing.
And suddenly, it seemed the silver lining inside the black raincloud of Tim's passing had started to materialize. Maybe, finally, we can move on to what we take away from Tim's 53 years of life.
Have many interests. Tim was interested in so many things, including writing, family, politics, travel, food, beer, conversation, film and social media. His ethnicity was Carpatho-Rusyn, and he founded and served as the president for the Lake Michigan chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society.
"There would not have been a chapter in the Midwest if it were not for Tim," says Charlotte Conjelko, the current president of the group. "I was absolutely, positively impressed with his knowledge of his ethnic background. He knew everything."
Tim traveled throughout the world both on assignment for his work and on vacation, from Singapore to Budapest to Belgium to Vancouver. He was working on multiple books, including a biography of Andy Warhol – who was also Carpatho-Rusyn – and another about a murder that took place in Chicago. (If anyone is interested in finishing the books, please contact the author of this article.)
Tim was planning, on behalf of the organization, to create a Carpatho-Rusyn Film Festival featuring the most famous films with Carpatho-Rusyn characters, including "The Deer Hunter." Directed by Michael Cimino, the Vietnam War story follows Pennsylvania steel workers and avid deer hunters who are also of Carpatho-Rusyn ancestry.
"Tim was a student of the world," says Sharon. "He told me, at the end, 'I've got to do things in my life that people dream about.'"
His interest in people was genuine and undoubtedly one of the contributing factors to his success as a writer. Tim was the kind of guy who, despite having a terminal illness, asked how your garden was doing.
"He was often the smartest person in the room," says Sharon. "But he never acted this way. Well, unless you challenged him."
Say what you mean and mean what you say. Tim's friend of 20 years, Meg Kissinger, sums this up the best.
"Tim was the only guy I knew who never – ever – said anything he didn't mean. There wasn't a fake bone in that man's body," says Meg. "He was the most refreshing person I know."
Enjoy your work. Tim started working for the City News Bureau of Chicago in 1979 after he graduated from Central Michigan University at the age of 20. He went on to work at the Wausau Daily Herald, the Green Bay Press Gazette, USA Today, The Milwaukee Journal and, after taking the Journal Sentinel's buyout in 2009, at OnMilwaukee.com.
Tim enjoyed covering politics as well as pop culture. He reported on the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Jeffrey Dahmer case. He could talk about the most mainstream movies and the most obscure films.
"He was very interested in a lot of different things; he was very curious," said Father Tom Mueller, who is the rector at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Church, 2502 S. 30th St., where Tim worshiped for the last couple years of his life.
The fact that Tim filed his media column until the final days of his life is testament to how much he loved his work. When reminded he didn't have to keep writing if he didn't feel up to it, he always responded that the column helped him keep his spirits up. He enjoyed it.
Because of Tim's commitment to journalism – and the fact he was a dear friend – the OnMilwaukee.com editorial office was named "The Tim Cuprisin Memorial Newsroom." His spirit lives on in the world of deadlines and coworker banter. The world he loved.
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