Stan Gilliam, a veteran journalist who extolled everyday life in his native Sacramento in a popular column in The Bee, died Sunday. He was 87 and had colon cancer, his family said.
Mr. Gilliam joined The Bee as a part-time copy editor while teaching high school and became a full-time employee by 1965. He went on to write restaurant reviews with a chatty, witty style before taking over a daily lifestyle column in 1978.
For almost 11 years, he wrote "Stan's Sacramento," a genial glimpse of ordinary people and happenings around town. Items that didn't qualify as "news" from high school reunions to 60th wedding anniversaries, from back-fence gossip to legends about local sports heroes found a welcome home under his byline.
Mr. Gilliam said he found purpose in celebrating people, traditions and small-town values in his column as the capital grew into a metropolis.
"It's easy to write about the movers and shakers," he said in 1989. "I tried to get in as many names as I could of the lesser-known people. It meant a lot to them to get their names in the paper. You could say that I never wrote for my editors, but for my readers."
Charles Stanley Gilliam was born to Flora and Charles Gilliam in 1924. He graduated from Christian Brothers High School in 1941.
He earned a bachelor's degree from Saint Mary's College and a master's degree from California State University, Sacramento. He spent a total of 17 years as a teacher at Grant Union High School and Sacramento High School.
He was an old-school journalist who smoked, drank copious cups of coffee from a Thermos he toted from home and continued to pound out his column on an electric typewriter after computers entered the newsroom. He was scrupulous about grammar and gregarious with readers and colleagues.
"Stan had no pretensions about him," former Bee ombudsman Art Nauman said. "It sounds cliché, but he was a regular guy."
After retiring from The Bee in 1989, Mr. Gilliam wrote a column for the weekly Senior Spectrum paper until 2007. He received distinguished service awards from Saint Mary's College and CSUS. He was active in many civic and social groups.
He was predeceased in 2008 by his wife, Joan, who was known to his readers as "the Independent and Argumentative Joan Jonen-Gilliam." Married in 1950, they had three children and lived in the River Park neighborhood for 52 years before moving to Mercy McMahon Terrace in east Sacramento in 2004. He moved to a Carmichael assisted-living center after he was diagnosed with cancer in December 2010.
A gifted storyteller and historian, Mr. Gilliam often claimed partly in jest that he was responsible for accidentally burning down Edmonds Field in 1948. He recalled dropping a lit cigarette on peanut shells under the wooden bleachers during a Sacramento Solons game hours before a raging fire reduced the structure to ashes.
"I was going to pour some beer down there and put it out," he told The Bee in 2000. "But beer was 15 cents a bottle, and I didn't want to waste too much. So I poured a little down there and thought that would do the trick."