Dan Stayskal chuckles at his earliest memories of watching his father work.
“I was watching him draw his cartoons and he would try to explain them to me,” he said of his father, political cartoonist Wayne Stayskal, who spent two decades at the Tampa Tribune starting in 1984. “But I was just three or four. I don’t remember understanding at all. They were political in nature.”
More than just political, the cartoons were drawn from a decidedly conservative point of view. That made Mr. Stayskal a rarity in his profession and earned him the lasting respect of some and the enduring enmity of others.
Mr. Stayskal, who suffered from Alzheimers, died Nov. 20 at his home in the suburban Chicago retirement community of Carol Stream. He was 86.
Dan Stayskal, 48, of Lakeland, may not have always understood his father’s work but he was keenly aware of it. The cartoonist, whose drawings attacked abortion, stood up for gun owner rights and often contained religious themes, so enraged readers that newspapers where he worked were sometimes picketed.
“I remember him telling me he had a folder full of hate mail,” said the son. “He saw that as a sign that he was doing it right. He loved it.”
Mr. Stayskal was born in Oak Park, Illinois on Dec. 11, 1931. He served in the Air Force after high school and at the age of 19, he married his wife, Helen, who was instrumental in turning him into a cartoonist. She urged him to enroll in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, where he graduated in 1956, according to his obituary.
He eventually became the chief cartoonist for the Chicago American newspaper. After it went out of business, he was hired by the Chicago Tribune as an editorial cartoonist, where he worked until 1984, when he moved to the Tampa Tribune.
During his time there, Mr. Stayskal earned a reputation for being quiet but friendly. Most editorial cartoonists have little interaction with other journalists in their newsroom. That was especially pronounced in Mr. Stayskal’s case, recalled Joe Guidry, former editorial page editor for the Tampa Tribune.
“He was a conservative cartoonist,” Guidry said.” He had sharp edges on his cartoons but not a sharp edge on his personality at all. I know there were some people in the newsroom who did not like his cartoons, some talked to him about it, but he took it graciously and would not argue with people. His religious beliefs were very strong. He would have Bible studies at times and places. He really tried hard to live his faith.”
Former Tampa Tribune editorial cartoonist David O’Keefe remembers Mr. Stayskal as his mentor.
“I learned editorial cartooning under him,” said O’Keefe, 57, of Brandon. “I would take him ideas and he would say ‘how about adding this?’ He kind of taught me the ropes.”
Dan Stayskal remembers that for a short while he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, who retired in 2010. But as he did with his other three sons, Mr. Stayskal discouraged the choice.
“He said, ‘don’t do it, it is a dying career,’ ” said Dan Stayskal, who listened and is now a systems analyst for Publix.
After leaving the Tribune, Mr. Stayskal returned to his beloved Chicago area. He died with a smile, his son said, with a hymn sung by a nurse being the last thing he heard.
A Celebration of Life will be held Feb. 16, 2019 at 10 a.m. at the Windsor Park Retirement Community at 124 Windsor Park Dr., Carol Stream, IL. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org).
Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman