National and local sportswriters are mourning the loss of one of the most respected members of their fraternity

National and local sportswriters are mourning the loss of one of the most respected members of their fraternity, Rod Beaton, who was a charter member of USA Today's sports desk.

Beaton – an Alexis I. duPont High School graduate – covered high school sports for The News Journal before his promotion to Gannett’s flagship newspaper.

Beaton was just 59 years old. He had been battling Parkinson's Disease and Lewy body dementia for some time.

Beaton’s death caused many peers to give pause and pay homage to a man who was much respected for his talent and work ethic.

As freelance sportswriter Chuck Durante put it, Beaton “showed how talent and flair can thrive in a tight news hole” when he made the move to USA Today. USA Today, Gannett’s flagship paper, was the forerunner of shorter news stories and the increased use of graphics in anticipation of readers’ shorter attention spans.

“Rod was a terrific professional, friendly on a rainy Saturday morning at McKean and similarly glamorous venues,” said Durante, past president of the Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association. “He wrote gracefully about girls sports in that transitional era, and was an extraordinarily knowledgeable hockey correspondent. 

“He covered baseball with an enviable blend of boldness, fairness and lucidity,” he added. “Our loss was the nation's gain when Hal Bodley and Taylor Buckley spirited Rod, Janice Lloyd and Anne Squires to the newly-formed national newspaper in 1982.”

Sports Illustrated columnist Tom Verducci credited Beaton in a recent column for being able to easily give people information about several teams before the age of the Internet.

“… If you wanted to learn something about teams outside of your home market -- next level stuff, from minor league prospects to potential trades -- you read Rod Beaton, one of the original staff members of USA Today when it began in 1982,” Verducci said. “And if you wanted to be around a thoroughly decent man with a great sense of humor and a quick smile, you sought the company and kindness of Rod.”

Indeed, USA Today’s Paul White wrote that the gregarious Beaton made a lot of friends in his two decades of covering sports for the national publication.

“The baseball world and the newspaper -- two of the many passions he loved to discuss with anyone who would listen and respond -- lost a friend [June 22] when the gregarious journalist died after a lengthy illness,” White said.

Beaton, who was raised in Hockessin, graduated from A.I. in 1969. He went on to graduate from the University of Delaware.

He was predeceased by his parents Hugh and Elaine Beaton. He is survived by his wife Maria, sons Kyle and Cody and brothers David and Chris.