As a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, former Texarkana Gazette writer John Fooks had a passion for telling the stories of other veterans.
Scrolling through his bylines, readers can find profiles of veterans, along with coverage of the issues they faced overseas and at home.
Fooks died Thursday at age 75.
Many of the same veterans he wrote about were in downtown Texarkana on Friday for the 31st annual POW-MIA Vigil scheduled at the Korean-Vietnam Memorial. And Fooks was on a lot of their minds.
"There is a lot to say about him. He was a good man and we're going to miss him. He would always show up down there (at the Memorial) with us," said friend and local Vietnam veterans advocate Greg Beck. "He always did a good job bringing out some of the veterans issues that a lot of people didn't know about. He got people talking and that helped the veteran more than anything."
Fooks was a feature writer and columnist at the Texarkana Gazette for 27 years, a Mason, a Vietnam veteran and a past district governor of Toastmasters International.
He was well-known for his columns "Days Gone By," where he interviewed senior citizens about their lives, and "Here's Looking At You," where he wrote profiles about interesting people in all walks of life.
"John loved to write. It was his passion," said Texarkana Gazette editor Les Minor. "He always said, 'Everybody has a story to tell.' It didn't matter who a person was or what a person did, John had a knack for getting a person to open up. He was a great listener. He could take any conversation and turn it into a story."
In 1989, Fooks started a memoir writing seminar. He was encouraged to do so by many of the seniors he met and wrote about in his column. He wanted to help them preserve their stories.
"He was a character," said local veterans advocate Freddie Weathers.
"He did a lot of stories on veterans. And when he wrote an article, he really went all out," Weathers said.
Fooks wrote about Weathers and his best friend George Anthony's time in Vietnam.
Weathers said when the article came out, he was surprised at the amount of detail that was included in the article.
"I didn't think he was going to put everything in there," Weathers laughed.
Texarkana resident Ann Nicholas met Fooks when he was writing about a Texarkana Little Theater production.
"He wrote about the best of Texarkana and his articles really promoted the best parts of the city and its people," Nicholas said.
"He was so compassionate and caring and interested in so many different things, from veterans issues and genealogy to the arts. He was always happy and smiling and so willing to give of himself," Nicholas said.
She especially remembers the friendship that developed between Fooks and Iwo Jima survivor Jonathan "Jay" Rowe.
"He (Fooks) would take Jay Rowe places and make sure he got to American Legion meetings," Nicholas said.
Beck said Rowe often kept to himself but after Fooks took him under his wing, Rowe continued to attend meetings and gatherings for the rest of his life.
Beck said one thing Fooks didn't do was talk about himself a lot.
"He was in the band in the Marine Corps, but he didn't talk about his own experiences a lot. He would tell stories and they were funny but he didn't really talk a lot about himself."
Texarkana resident Brenda Rochelle knew Fooks through Toastmasters, but she and her husband Jim also considered him a close friend.
"He was one of the best friends I ever had. He always made you feel like a million bucks. He made you feel so important," she said.
She remembers the encouraging notes he would write to friends and the corny jokes that he loved to tell.
"They were cornball jokes but they would get your mind off your problems," she said.
Rochelle said when she first saw Fooks at Toastmasters, he was a hesitant speaker.
"But we watched him evolve and become Mr. Toastmaster," she said.
Former Gazette Managing Editor Ethel Channon described Fooks as a good man.
"Whenever he took to something, he took to it with relish. When he joined Toastmasters, he pursued it, he kept after it and he tried to get everyone involved. He approached life and things he was interested in with gusto."
She visited with him a couple of months ago. "We talked belief. He was at peace," she said.
Funeral services for Fooks will be 10 a.m. Monday at First Lutheran Church, 4600 Texas Blvd. The family will receive friends from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at Texarkana Funeral Home.
He is survived by his wife Roberta Fooks, brother Mike Fooks and two nieces.