Salute to the Colonel

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When word raced through the e-mail and phone wires last Thursday — especially in Denver, that most wired of cable towns — that Tom Kerver had died, it was remarkable how many reminiscences were along this line:

Boy, that guy was opinionated, and he did seem to enjoy ticking people off. But he was really a good friend.

That’s making an impact. That’s an epitaph.

I also remember him as a guy who could weave a cover story about a cable company with the best of them. He wrote a ton of them for the late Cablevision magazine before my boss, Marianne Paskowski, called on him to distill his opinions into about 500 words a week to help our then-new daily fax start off with a bang.

From that we can attest: He hadn’t lost his ability to tick people off — or to weave a story.

His office at Cablevision in Cherry Creek in Denver bore the legend “curmudgeon corner,” and that’s an image he cultivated. But the sweet was never far from the rough.

He went out of his way to put in a strong good word about me, unsolicited, at an important time when I wasn’t even sure we were friends, and I never forgot it and never will.

He got under my skin from time to time, too. But those are just smiles over time.

For years he persisted in the idea that AT&T was going to buy into cable in a big way, and for a long time I was skeptical. Then, of course, it happened.

In retrospect, he might have had more than an outsider’s assessment of those odds, but he was still right, and I was impressed.

When it became obvious AT&T was incapable of following through on its grand scheme of leading a great cable revival — or even of running its own systems well — Tom held those guys’ feet to the fire with a vengeance.

He burned a few bridges, then and later, but he was consistent.

Ben Hooks, a longtime cable guy and a close friend of Tom and his wife, Nancy, summed up the Colonel (as our former colleague Joe Estrella always called him) pretty well.

He started off saying he’d taken a poll in his Buford Media office and found “they miss his article.”

“Tom, I thought, was a true blue writer,” Hooks said. “Some people could react quite negatively to his feeling. But he was always true to his feeling. And he always had a basis for it. I always just thought he was a credible writer.”

“As a friend I always knew where I stood, and I knew where he stood.”

Hooks said he had one regret: He’d wanted to nominate Tom as a Cable Pioneer, but let Tom dissuade him from doing that this year.

There’ll be a memorial in Denver soon (details to come). We can nominate him for whatever we want then.

For now, a personal one-gun salute from this corner.

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