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Unflappable Daily News editor Eric R. Lund dies at 90

Eric R. Lund was a strong, unflappable editor of the Chicago Daily News, whether engaging in some arm-twisting to get reporters to turn in stories before deadline, or getting out as many as five or six editions of the paper on busy news days.

Mr. Lund, 90, who rose to be assistant managing editor of the Daily News, died of congestive heart failure on Jan. 16 at Evanston Hospital.

“He was a calm and reassuring presence in a crazy newsroom,” said Harlan Draeger, a retired Chicago Sun-Times reporter who worked with Mr. Lund at the Daily News. In an era when newsrooms were filled with colorful characters, “He was open-minded and respectful of people’s individuality.”

He started his career at the Evanston Review, where he was “a very compassionate, careful reporter,” said Ralph Otwell, former editor of the Sun-Times.

“My first day in the intimidating (to nervous me) Chicago Daily News newsroom, it was Eric Lund who walked to my desk with a smile, introduced himself, told me who was who and what they did, made me feel at ease and welcome,” said Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Lois Wille, in an article by former Sun-Times travel editor Jack Schnedler in the Daily News alumni newsletter.

Mr. Lund also mentored “hundreds of journalism students” while teaching at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and at Columbia College and North Park University, said his friend Fred Eychaner, a media executive and major donor to Democratic causes. “He hired me to be the city hall reporter at the Evanston Review. I learned so much about politics from Evanston City Hall, how politics and government actually work in the trenches — the nitty-gritty of zoning boards and how the sausage is made.”

Editor Eric R. Lund was a mentor to many journalism students. | Provided photo
Editor Eric R. Lund was a mentor to many journalism students. | Provided photo

He received numerous awards for service to the Swedish-American community. His parents, Edith and John Lund, a tuckpointer, immigrated to the U.S. from Lidkoping, Sweden. They met and married in Chicago, settling on the South Side.

While still in grade school, Eric used a friend’s typewriter to start his own neighborhood newspaper. “He solicited ads and marketed it and delivered it,” said his wife of 25 years, Grace Carlson-Lund.

After graduating from Englewood High School, Eric enrolled at Northwestern. His studies were interrupted when he was drafted in World War II. Stationed in the Philippines, he was supposed to be an Army litter-bearer, transporting wounded soldiers. “But then they discovered he could type, so for the rest of his service, 18 months, he was a clerk typist,” his wife said.

He served briefly in occupied Japan before returning to Northwestern. He earned his journalism degree in 1949.

Mr. Lund settled in Evanston, where he kept the same phone number since 1948.

From 1946 to 1956, he worked as the City Hall reporter for the Evanston Review. He joined the Daily News in 1957, leaving in 1961 to edit the Evanston Review. He returned to the Daily News from 1966-1977. After stints at Northwestern and North Park College, he retired in 1994 from Columbia College, where he helped build the journalism graduate program.

Thanks to his parents and frequent trips to visit relatives in Europe, his Swedish was almost as good as his English, his wife said. “On one trip to Sweden, the cabdriver asked him which province he was from,” she said.

He served as a director and president of Chicago’s Swedish-American Historical Society and was a frequent contributor to the Swedish-American Historical Quarterly.

Always organized, he kept a notebook labeled “IMPORTANT” with biographical information that could be used for his obituary, including a list of his awards for service to the Swedish-American community.

During the 1976 bicentennial year of the United States, he was honored with a medal from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. Two years later, Sweden named him a Knight First Class, Royal Order of the Polar Star. In 1998, he received the Carl Sandburg Medal from the Swedish-American Historical Society. And he received a 2011 Swedish Council of America Award of Merit.

In 1973, he received the Marshall Field Award for Outstanding Editorial Contribution to the Chicago Daily News.

For more than half a century, chums looked forward to getting invited to his annual Christmas Eve “julbord,” or Yuleboard, said longtime friends Sally and Ken Wylie. The traditional smorgasbord, with ingredients from Wikstrom’s deli in Andersonville, featured Swedish meatballs, brown beans, potato sausage, lingonberries, rice pudding, salmon and three kinds of herring.

His calm, unruffled demeanor made him an excellent card player. “You couldn’t read his true intent,” Draeger said. “I remember him pulling in his winnings at the poker table, and he had a big smile on his face after cleaning me out.”

Grace Carlson-Lund and Eric R. Lund on their wedding day 25 years ago. | Provided photo
Grace Carlson-Lund and Eric R. Lund on their wedding day 25 years ago. | Provided photo

Mr. Lund’s first wife, Florence Johannsen Lund, died in 1989 at 65 after a long ordeal. She lingered in a coma for nearly two months after being found in an Evanston alley with severe head injuries.

He found happiness again when he met Grace Carlson-Lund, who is part Norwegian, through friends. “I sensed that on our first date that he seemed like a solid, calm person to be around,” she said.

They enjoyed traveling. “We had many wonderful trips to Sweden and many other countries in Europe. We would no sooner be home from one trip when he would start planning the next,” his wife said. His favorite destinations were Ireland and Switzerland. At 85, he could still tour Paris, she said: “He used a cane and was able to get around.”

Mr. Lund was cremated. In addition to his wife, he is survived by cousins in Sweden. A memorial service is planned at 11 a.m. Feb. 6 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 939 Hinman Ave., Evanston.