John R. Clabes, 94, former newspaper editor and public servant, died Friday after a short illness.
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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.