The old saying that only the good die young is certainly apt to describe the passing of my dear friend and colleague Noel Sheppard at the age of 53.
I’ve known Noel since early 2005 when my brother Greg and I saw him contributing freelance pieces to the American Thinker. At the time, blogging was still relatively new and the political and media establishments (of both left and right) were still very wary about the idea that people without formal academic training could write about politics. As it turned out, the rest of America strongly disagreed.
Noel never intended to become a professional blogger once he began submitting pieces online. But just as America turned out to love reading blogs, Noel took to the new medium like a fish to water. Eventually, it became a full-time gig for him as he sold his financial planning business to pursue blogging full-time for us at NewsBusters as a mid-life career change.
Noel, Mark Finkelstein, and I at the 2012 Republican National Convention
It was a perfect combination. Noel loved attention and NewsBusters readers loved his work, making him by far the blog’s most popular writer. Very frequently, he single-handly brought in half of the site traffic each month.
In an earlier time, Noel would’ve been an ace reporter or well-known editor, such was his talent for spotting the hot story and writing about it in an engaging way. He also had the rare ability to make dry subjects interesting.
Sadly, Noel’s combination of brio, intelligence, and popular touch are all too rare in the conservative world. Noel and I spoke many times about the fact that too many conservatives and libertarians seem more interested in getting read by Republican congressional staffers than by millions of their fellow Americans. My upcoming book on the future of the American Right is inspired by many of these conversations. (For those interested in some of our preliminary thoughts on the topic, see this piece we published together in the American Spectator in 2012.)
Like everything he did, Noel threw himself into his career as a writer, literally blogging at least one post a day on NB before he fell ill to cancer and was admitted to the hospital in January. Weekend readers could always count on Noel to have something new and interesting for them to read.
Noel continued being indefatigable once he began his battle with lung and lymph node cancer. Despite the ravages of chemotherapy and the constant pain of his disease, Noel remained cheerful. He retained his sense of humor as well, even making jokes about his physical condition, saying that he felt like his neck was starting to remind him of the Fat Bastard character from the Austin Powers movies.
Noel was convinced that he would be able to beat his cancer. When I last spoke with him via phone, while he sounded awful, he was optimistic about his progress. And things did seem to be doing better. How sad it is that things went south so suddenly.
Noel Sheppard was a dear friend. His wit, dedication, love of life, and flair for writing made him one of the best people I’ve ever known. I will miss him deeply but I’m sure his family will miss him even more. Rest in peace, buddy.
(Click the photo above to view a gallery I'm compiling of memorable photos of Noel.)
> Brent Bozell: “Our Noel Sheppard Passed Away”
> Tim Graham: “Remembering Noel Sheppard In TV Appearances”
> Tim Graham: “Remembering Noel Sheppard’s Greatest Hits on NewsBusters”