Age: was 56
Occupation: former reporter, Grand Rapids Press and WOOD-TV 8
Last Seen: up in the heavens
Awarded For: excellence in journalism
When I walked out of Costco Friday afternoon, I got into my Jeep and my radio started blaring Our Lady Peace's 1997 classic "Superman's Dead".
When I think of Superman, I think of the superhero who in the eyes of a normal person is mild-mannered newspaper reporter Clark Kent. But after paying a visit to a phone booth, he becomes Superman, the defender of freedom and fighter of evil.
Barton Deiters was not a superhero, but a mild-mannered reporter who also worked for a newspaper, The Grand Rapids Press for many years. However, his job was eliminated when the paper downsized a few years ago. So, Barton put away the typewriter and moved over to WOOD-TV 8, picking up a microphone.
As a reporter, Barton was tough, often doing reports for WOOD-TV's Target 8. He was a regular at the courthouse where he picked up stories. According to his old station, he was well-liked in the office and was quite professional. He was a comic book fanatic and dressed the part of Clark Kent, minus the muscles and the ability to fly.
The real people Deiters was a superhero to was his wife of 29 years, Lorena, and two kids. He even called her his "partner in crime".
What made Barton even more special was the fact that he was human. In 2012, he received a new kidney after waiting on the transplant list for a decade. Just last year, my good friend Darren Gibson from Southpaws went to the Bernie Sanders rally in Grand Rapids just before COVID-19 hit. Lo-and-behold, Barton was there. Darren talked to him, asking if he was covering the event. He admitted that he was there not as a reporter, but as a fan. With all the rumors I've heard about the political leanings of some of WOOD-TV's staff, it was nice to know that he was one of the better ones.
Of course, Superman had to deal with Kryptonite. For Barton, it was a mosquito.
Last Fall, Bart was bitten by a mosquito with the West Nile Virus. The disease left him unable to walk or talk and hooked to a ventilator. For eight long months, Barton struggled to regain his strength to be human again. Recently, WOOD-TV 8 showed Barton leave Mary Free Bed Hospital with his family and friends cheering him on. He went home to continue his recuperation. Sadly, he relapsed and died on Friday.
For 35 years, Barton was the voice of the voiceless here in GR as one of the toughest investigative reporters in the area. Now, he's silenced for good thanks to a mosquito. Thankfully, a longtime friend of Dieters' set up a GoFundMe page to help his family with mounting bills. So far, they've raised over $75,000.
WOOD-TV's competitors have all sent them their deepest condolences as well.
It's a shame when someone who really cares about their fans and viewers succumbs to a disease like West Nile. Barton was one of the most-professional reporters this market and his wife and kids were incredibly lucky to have him as a father and husband. But maybe, just maybe, the Good Lord needed him more than we needed him.
And how ironic that it was the first time I heard "Superman's Dead" in forever.
P.S. A secondary Hero of the Day is going out to former WOOD-TV reporter and anchor Lynsey Mukomel, who left the TV station on Friday. It was announced today that she will be the new press secretary for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. Congrats, Lynsey!
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