Delaware cartoonist Jack Jurden dies at 88
Delaware's best-known cartoonist, Jack Jurden, whose pen-and-ink drawings spanned more than six decades, has died at the age of 88.
The charming and quick-penned artist, who met and drew every president from Kennedy to Carter, died quietly at his Brandywine Hundred home Tuesday night, surrounded by family and friends.
Although he had physical problems in recent years, his sense of humor, graciousness and generous nature never diminished, his daughter Jan R. Jurden said Wednesday.
Jurden's four decades of daily editorial cartooning for The News Journal and many years of national syndication followed his U.S. Army service in World War II, after he and his wife Faye moved from their hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Wilmington.
Jurden had worked in photo-engraving in Allentown – during the era of publishing when photographs had to be converted into metal, varying fine dots to create their images – and brought that expertise to Delaware.
He worked as a commercial photo engraver and became an art director for The Morning News and Evening Journal, predecessors of The News Journal Media Group, overseeing engraving of photographs and artwork.
After editors learned of his artistic skills – charcoal drawing, watercolor painting and sketching – he landed a second job at the newspapers as cartoonist.
In a feature the newspapers printed about his two-job dual role, Jurden said, "Before man could talk, he used drawings to communicate. Cartoons have been with us through the ages. They've helped topple dictators, arouse public opinion, served noble causes, provided amusement and diversion, and sold commodities."
Jurden also freelanced as a commercial artist, illustrating booklets and brochures.
But his interest and focus of most of his work would become the politics of Delaware.
Harry F. Themal, writing in 1982 as The News Journal's public editor, responded to some readers' criticisms of Jurden's more-controversial political drawings by saying, "An editorial page cartoonist sticks his needle, or sword, into a person or an issue to make his point. He twists a face or current event into new shape that should allow the reader to sense the ridiculousness or tragedy in a current event."
On Wednesday, Themal – now a News Journal columnist – said, "The political and social insight Jack offered in his editorial page cartoons delighted even those Delawareans he might have been skewering and they often asked for his drawings." Themal noted that Jurden's drawings with his trademark talking frog decorated many of their subjects' offices.
"I'll miss my fun-loving and humorous friend," he said.
His humor about national and international matters was shared by more than 60 newspapers nationwide during his syndication, but he most prized his Delaware readers.
"I don't think people today appreciate the depth of his appeal to Delawareans or the range of his work," said John Sweeney, The News Journal's engagement editor.
"Politicians were always requesting originals of the cartoons that skewered them and they would proudly display them on their office walls," Sweeney said. "Some of his work, especially from the LBJ and Nixon years, was as sharp as any I have seen.
"The News Journal was lucky to have him."
Jurden leavened the newsroom with jokes and stories, won numerous awards, was president and held other leadership positions in the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and had drawings displayed in venues from Wilmington's restaurants and bars to offices of presidents and the U.S. National Archives in Washington.
Many of his cartoons were published in annual editions of "Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year."
For a cartoonist to be consistently popular and pertinent, Jurden said, required "lots of reading – and more reading."
"The frog and I try to provoke quick thought with a dash of humor," he said decades ago. "It's better to hit the funny bone than to belt someone in the solar plexus."
Generous with his talent, Jurden gave away countless drawings, from complex published cartoons to napkin sketches, also donating his artwork to support the Delaware Scottish Games Association. An honored annual guest at the Games, he was considered the life of the party at the tea barn.
The Games' founder, Maclean "Mac" Macleod, who died in 2013, called Jurden "a talented artist and a fine Scot."
Jurden's No. 1 fan, traveling companion and glamorous wife of 58 years died in 2010.
In addition to his daughter Jan, he is survived by another daughter, Jenifer, and their families.
They said memorial donations may be made to the Salvation Army, their father's favorite charity because of "the comfort and support it provided to him and his Army buddies in WWII."
Visiting hours for family and friends will be 5-7 p.m. Monday at McCrery Harra Funeral Home, 3924 Concord Pike, Talleyville. Services will be held later with private burial.
Contact robin brown at (302) 324-2856 or email@example.com. Find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @rbrowndelaware.