Mr. Guthrie (W. Edwin Smith / The Detroit News)
A few years ago, Doug Guthrie returned to ascend Mount Le Conte in the Great Smoky Mountains. He made the 5½ hour hike nearly every year, but had taken some time off.
The climb wasn’t easy. Mr. Guthrie didn’t complain. He knew the reward was at the top.
“It was a character-building thing,” said Lance Wynn, a longtime friend and former Grand Rapids Press photographer who accompanied Mr. Guthrie on the trips. “It was a hard way to get up there, but it was a beautiful spot. He just reveled in it.”
Mr. Guthrie, 60, worked just as hard at all his passions, from touch football games and go-kart races to his family and dream job as The Detroit News’ auto critic, colleagues said. He died Oct. 16, 2013, of an apparent heart attack at his Grosse Pointe Woods home.
A longtime courts reporter for the Grand Rapids Press, Mr. Guthrie joined The News in 2004 and became its auto critic in 2012. Colleagues said his wit, curiosity, scrupulousness and generosity made him equally comfortable interviewing crime victims and corporate CEOs.
“Doug had a passion for journalism and knew how to find a story,” said Ken Kolker, a WOOD-TV reporter and former colleague at the Press. “You knew he was going to be accurate and fair ... He loved the craft. It was important work. Whatever he covered, he covered like a blanket.”
Kolker knew little about cars when he succeeded Mr. Guthrie years ago covering racing for the Press. Mr. Guthrie ensured he didn’t flop on the beat, Kolker said.
“Other people would have let me hang out and look like a fool so they’d look like better reporters, but that wasn’t Doug,” Kolker said.
At the Press, Mr. Guthrie worked briefly with Hank Meijer, now co-chairman of the Meijer store chain.
Meijer said he was a “rookie” part-time sports reporter and Mr. Guthrie became a mentor.
“He was one of those colleagues whose return from an assignment always brightened the newsroom,” Meijer said. “It’s been three decades since we worked together, but I can still picture him coming in with his reporter’s notebook and a great story.”
Mr. Guthrie loved meeting people, made instant connections and left interviews with new friends and “more information than any reporter I’ve ever seen,” Wynn said.
“The guy could talk,” said Kelley Root Guthrie, Mr. Guthrie’s wife and the deputy metro editor at The News. “He could meet you once and he would remember the name of your dog and the kind of car you drove when you were 18.”
His lifetime love of autos made road trips interesting. Mr. Guthrie “could not let a car pass on the road without offering commentary about every car,” she said. He pushed himself to excel when he became The News’ critic, eschewing press releases for long hours and reams of research, Root Guthrie said.
“The auto companies knew Doug as a fair and spirited reviewer who appreciated the efforts that went into auto design and manufacturing and sought to provide readers with his most candid perspective,” said Jon Wolman, The News’ editor and publisher.
“He’ll leave a mark in our newsroom and more broadly among our readers and across the auto community.”
Mr. Guthrie rarely missed an opportunity to brag about his three children, whom his wife called “the light of his life.”
“He was the most unselfish and kind person I’ve ever known ... ,” she said. “He was the kind of person who would work all day and come home and make dinner. He always put others first.”
He is survived by children Geoffrey (Amanda), Caitlin (Shane) and Grace; siblings, David (Laurel), Vicki Rahn and Joy Ellen (Mike) Pupel; his parents, Joy (Woody) Melson and Douglas (Diane) Guthrie, and many nieces and nephews.
Visitation is 3-9 p.m. Saturday at A.H. Peters Funeral Home, 20705 Mack, Grosse Pointe Woods. A memorial service is 4 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home.
Staff Writer Mike Martinez contributed.