The sometimes whimsical, often biting editorial cartoons that have appeared in the region's community newspapers for 30 years have ceased, and conservative advocacy groups have lost a happy warrior.
Cartoonist and illustrator Glenn Foden died Sunday, March 20, at the age of 60. His wife, Teresa Franklin Foden, said he was visiting family in his hometown of Chelmsford, Mass., when he suddenly became short of breath and then nauseous, and died shortly thereafter. His widow said Monday that preliminary indications led doctors to believe he had suffered an aneurysm, a weakened portion of a major blood vessel, in his heart.
In addition to the editorial cartoons and illustrations that appeared regularly in the Columbia Flier, Howard County Times, Towson Times, Catonsville Times, Laurel Leader and other newspapers in what was then Patuxent Publishing Co. and now is known as Targeted Media under Baltimore Sun Media Group, Foden also penned a syndicated comic strip, designed T-shirts and did extensive work for publications and websites of the Heritage Foundation and other right-leaning organizations.
After studying political science at the University of Massachusetts, Foden succeeded Walt Handelsman as Patuxent's staff cartoonist in 1986. Handelsman went on to national renown and two Pulitzer Prizes.
But even though Foden would never attain that level of professional recognition, "we really didn't lose much with Glenn," remarked Paul Milton, who consulted with Foden weekly throughout his own long stint with BSMG's community papers, during which he alternately headed the newsrooms of its Baltimore County and Howard County papers, and later the Carroll County Times.
"His political acumen set us apart from other community newspapers."
Foden's work annually garnered awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and other media organizations. And while local and state political figures — of both major parties — at whom Foden took aim often felt stung by his pen, they just as often would ask for the original drawings to frame and hang in their offices, Milton said.
Foden met his future bride when Teresa Franklin was a young reporter for the Catonsville Times. She said that she was then painfully shy, but Foden's good-natured ribbing drew her out of her shell.
"He was the only one to keep sparring," she said.
The couple settled in Mount Airy. Their twin daughters, Hannah and Emily, were born in 1991.
In the early 2000s, newspapers large and small saw heavy budget cuts as electronic media and other factors hastened a revenue slide. But even after big city dailies had begun to dismiss their staff cartoonists and turn to nationally oriented syndicated art for their editorial pages, Foden's editors were able to convince management of the value of Foden's work to the local papers.
"We were able to have local political cartoons. That made us unique," Milton said.
After 2008, Foden continued to produce cartoons and illustrations for the company as a freelancer until his death.
Also in 2008, Foden secured a new outlet for his work in the realm of conservative commentary. Fellow Patuxent alumnus Dan Gainor was by then with the Media Research Center, a Reston, Va.-based conservative media watchdog.
"I was looking to upgrade our newsletter," and wanted to include editorial cartoons, Gainor said. "I thought of no one else."
From that springboard, Foden went on to draw cartoons and whiteboard animations for similarly oriented groups including the Heritage Foundation, the American Civil Rights Union and the Republican National Committee.
Colleagues of varying political bent this week remembered Foden as a man who never shied away from a debate but also never let disagreement stand in the way of friendly relations with anyone.
"He was opinionated. But even though he had this razor-sharp wit, I don't think he had a mean bone in his body," recalled Pete Kerzel, a former Patuxent editor who is now managing editor for MASNsports.com. "He always reached out and looked for the good in people."
When they worked for Patuxent in the late 1980s, Kerzel managed the company softball team, which included Foden.
"On the field, he was just a big kid," Kerzel said, adding that Foden would be the one to pick up his spirits after a tough loss. "He'd say, 'You've got to remember this is a game. We play it, and then we get to drink beer.' "
"Glenn was a happy guy," Gainor agreed.