Capital Gazette shooting victim Rob Hiaasen remembered at memorial service

Father, husband and journalist Rob Hiaasen was remembered Monday after a deadly shooting spree at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis last week.

Hiaasen, a 59-year-old writer and editor, was one of five people murdered Thursday. The alleged shooter had a grudge with the newspaper over an article written about him years earlier.

About 500 attended the gathering at Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills.

"My dad is my best friend, he is my hero and he is my strength," said Hiaasen's daughter, Samantha. "He is the purest form of happiness I've ever felt in my life."

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His family said they wanted to celebrate Hiaasen's life and shared both poignant and humorous memories. His sister, Judy, told the crowd that he was their mom's favorite.

"I'd always tease him about it, and he gleefully took pride in that role," she said.

Hiaasen had a long career and was a newspaper writer turned editor who loved journalism enough that he taught a class at University of Maryland.

"When Rob believed in something, whether it was somebody sitting in prison who is innocent or somebody who was homeless and needed a voice and was never going to get it except for the newspaper column or the pages of a newspaper, he was tireless and he would not back down," said his brother and fellow writer Carl Hiaasen.

Rob Hiaasen was a husband who had just celebrated 33 years of marriage. It was his wife Maria's birthday Thursday, the day she lost him.

"Absolutely my best friend," Maria said. "I wouldn't have thought anybody could be so lucky. You know, it's weird to stand here and say I'm lucky, but I am."

Hiaasen was a father of three. His adult children all spoke at the remembrance and shared that their dad had written journals for each of them.

"He wrote this to me in the journal -- 'It just dawned me that this book is upside down. Forgive me, I am often upside down myself,'" Samantha shared. "And today, dad, we're all upside down without you. My world is upside down without you, but I'm remembering every memory, all of your humor and, of course, still feeling all of your love forever so that we can get a little more right side up. I love you, dad."

Hiaasen's family said those wanting to honor him could donate to several organizations in his name -- the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Parks Conservation Association, Planned Parenthood or the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

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