earning of Leighton Hepker’s death didn’t come as a surprise. Since I am not a person to comfort friends in such situations as his, I deeply regret never contacting him during the final stages of his life.
This opinion of Leighton comes too late and is a futile effort to give my thoughts of him as a person.
Leighton was the son of a farm family and attended high school in Springville. When he began his radio career at KMAQ, a friend of mine living in Springville commented on what a wonderful person he was. Every word was the truth.
He was an asset to Maquoketa far beyond serving as an excellent radio announcer, with a wide scope of knowledge of farming, government, community affairs and sports. He delivered the message in clear words with a voice easy to understand.
Leighton felt at home with a microphone in his hand, interviewing people and broadcasting live events. He took leadership roles in our community where decisions were open to criticism, such as mayor and a member of the hospital board of directors. I admire him for that, even as a basketball official, both blowing the whistle on the floor and as a spectator.
I made a note in the 1980-81 section of my basketball record book of his first game as a basketball official. Leighton teamed with Chuck Bredlow to work a JV game between Maquoketa and Central DeWitt. Later in his career, his officiating partner was Curt Nelson. They officiated boys tournament games.
Leighton was put in difficult situations announcing games when his sons, Justin and Adam, were involved. He did it better than anyone I know.
He also handled calls on KMAQ’s Friday open line in a manner few could match.
Although not a social friend, we became acquainted and exchanged information as so-called competitors on the local sports scene.
Many of those occasions were post-game interviews. I lacked the polish of Leighton and will now admit — I often let him start those interviews and ask the first question.
Maquoketa has lost a great person. I, and many others, will soon realize how great he was.