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6934 South Western Avenue
PO Box 891320
Oklahoma City, OK 73139
Phone: 405-634-1439
Fax: 405-634-3753
John Clabes

John Robert Clabes

Sunday, March 21st, 1926 - Friday, March 27th, 2020
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John R. Clabes, 94, former newspaper editor and public servant, died Friday after a short illness.
Clabes was born March 21, 1926, in Poteau, OK, joined the Army Air Corps in 1944, was
graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1950 with a BA degree in journalism, and worked
for newspapers in Hobart and Lawton before starting the Oklahoma Journal in 1964, which
ceased publication in 1981. He then served as public affairs officer at Tinker Air Force Base and
later, the Federal Aviation Administration at the Aeronautical Center and the Southwest Region
at Fort Worth. He left federal service in 2006.
A member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, he received many honors for his
pioneering efforts in typography, makeup design and offset production.
John was beloved by aviation reporters across the nation during the years when major airplanes
crashes happened several times a year. He was always helpful and always on the lookout for
positive stories about the FAA. If he pitched you an idea, he fully expected you to find a way to
sell it to your editors. His tenaciousness was matched only by his saltiness and propensity for
sharing inappropriate jokes by email.
He counted many aviation reporters as personal friends, and made sure that anytime one of them
visited Oklahoma City that they stayed in his guest room, named the “Malnic Suite” after the
legendary Los Angeles Times aviation reporter Eric Malnic.
He loved his family, his friends, nice clothes, golf, rambunctious dogs, and convertible sports
cars. Riding in his passenger seat was a truly frightening experience.
He is survived by his wife Shawn McBride, daughter Caitlin Victoria Clabes, two sons, Blair
Clabes of Carlsbad, CA, and Brandon Clabes of Midwest City, two grandsons, Collin and
Morgan, and a granddaughter, Gabriella.
Given current conditions, no services are planned. In lieu of flowers, people who wish to are
asked to donate to a charity of their choice.
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Posted at 01:40pm
John was a senior and much-respected and loved colleague on the public affairs team at the FAA, something of a mentor and advisor, and an exemplar at his craft. He was a go-to guru on golf, a questionable advisor on dining out in Oklahoma City (rocky mountain oysters --once), but most of all, he was a caring friend and counselor on life and on living inside the federal bureaucracy. I was one of those who occupied the "Malnic Suite" from time to time, and was honored to do so and to partake of John's hospitality when visiting the Aeronautical Center. We stayed in touch in retirement, and there were few days or weeks that passed without pictures, stories, advice or commentary inbound from the Territory. When they stopped and when he didn't respond to inquiries, you knew this day was not far away, no matter what you might have hoped. I miss him and always will and wherever he is, know it's just about his tee time. --- Paul Turk, Herndon, Va.

Pam Olson

Posted at 08:47pm
Mr. Clabes was such a wonderful person to me when I was first imagining a career in journalism. I first met him about 1966 or '67. I was a junior or senior at Midwest City High School. The Vietnam War was ongoing, jets were constantly screaming overhead from Tinker, MWC had earlier been named "America's Model City" for its design and prosperity, the town now had its own paper and the now-defunct Uptown Cafeteria across the street from the Journal served wonderful buffets with live organ music on Sundays. The area was full of intellectual stimulation and promise.

Somehow, I managed to make contact with him, and he allowed me to write some student features for the Oklahoma Journal, coming up with a title (think intern) and allowing me a byline. I still have that string book (somewhere) from that period.

I remember when I was about to miss a deadline for a really simple story. I was interviewing a minister and big-time me had decided that I would use a borrowed tape-recorder instead of hand writing my interview notes. So, I haul in a neighbor's HUGE reel-to-reel recorder. Well, the machine malfunctioned because I didn't know how to use it. Mr. Clabes reminded me not to ever become that reliant again on a tape recorder, an admonition that I remember to this day.

At the end of the academic school year, there was a big UPIEO journalism scholarship contest. As I recall, each paper could nominate one of their student interns, and Mr. Clabes chose me. (There were other interns from which to choose, and plenty of boys.) Without missing a beat, he told me from the beginning that there's no way I would win because I was a girl. "They're never going to pick a girl for this," he warned. But the message was, do this anyway and don't get discouraged. It'll be a great experience. All the competitors were sent to a major news conference in OKC (or at least, in my mind then, I thought it was major) and had to write up the same story under deadline pressure. When the results were tabulated, a young man -- I'm sure he's still a fine journalist somewhere today --- did win. Mr. Clabes did announce that I had been first runner up and later presented me with a plaque from the Oklahoma Journal for my work.

More than 50 years have passed since then, and — among other places — I worked for CBS and CNN in Atlanta and in DC. But I've never forgotten Mr. Clabes' basic decency, his sense of humor and his encouragement to keep moving forward even when the outcome doesn't look good. Pam Olson ###

Blair Clabes Posted at 03:28pm

Dear Pam, Thank you for your heart felt memories. He was a great man, a great newspaper man, a great visionary when promoting talented minds, and above all, a great dad. Bless you for your kind words. Peace and love, Blair Clabes

Brandon Clabes Posted at 11:15am

Hey Pam, it’s Brandon. Ditto on Blair’s comments and I wanted to thank you for your heartfelt card! Dad talked about you often and he was so proud of you. You were a true friend to him for many years. Stay in touch please.

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