Former RMOWP president John Catsis, 83, died at his home in Silver City, New Mexico, April 7. John was a longtime coordinator of RMOWP’s photography workshop, an enthusiastic and colorful conference auctioneer for many years, member of the board of directors from 1986 to 1989 and from 1994 to 1997, and president from 1997 to 1999 and again from 2002 to 2003.
Born in Evanston, Illinois to Greek immigrant parents, John had a long career as a journalist, broadcaster, writer, photographer, and educator. He worked as a reporter, film photographer, and radio and television news anchor. He also performed in an amateur theater group in Houston.
John and Connie Louise Thibeau were married at the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Houston and celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary in 2016. Their son, Alexander, serves as a sergeant in the Albuquerque Police Department and is a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserves.
In 1977, John and Connie became part owners of KIVA-TV, an NBC affiliate in Farmington, New Mexico, where John was president and general manager, and three years later he started a new radio station in Grants, New Mexico, country station KYKN-FM. John’s professional career changed course in 1990 when he became a faculty member at the Oklahoma State University School of Journalism and Broadcasting, where he worked for eleven years, and in 1996 he was a producer for NBC-TV at the Atlanta Olympic games.
He retired from OSU as an associate professor in 2002. “Those were the happiest days of my career,” he later recalled.
During his so-called retirement John became more active in freelance writing, and his articles were carried in dozens of national magazines. He also wrote several books and was public address announcer for Western New Mexico University athletics. Later, he became the self-proclaimed “Picture Postcard King,” selling photos of southwestern New Mexico.
John wrote several books, including what he claimed was America’s first textbook on sports broadcasting, plus a guidebook to Vancouver, Canada and a handbook for hunters in the American West. He published a novel, Fulltimers, in 2006, and completed a memoir, Immigrant’s Son, just before his death. These last two titles are available on Amazon.com.
Survivors include his widow, Connie, their son, Alexander and daughter-in-law Stephanie, two grandchildren, Raiden and Ava, and a sister, Georgette Sotos, who has also been active in RMOWP.
John suggested the Southeast Arizona location for RMOWP’s 2017 conference and helped with its planning. On March 30, knowing that he would not be able to attend, John wrote a goodbye letter to RMOWP, which was read at the Sierra Vista conference:
“To the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Writers and Photographers, Inc.
I first became acquainted with the outdoors when I fell down a flight of stairs at the age of one. I have been fascinated ever since with outdoor adventures.
Fast forward to 1982, when Augie Schmuhl introduced me to Rocky Mountain Outdoor Writers and Photographers. I attended my first conference that year. Any of you remember where that was? Flagstaff!
As I journey towards my last photo shoot, Barbara and Don (Laine) are here to help me share these thoughts with you. I know that many of you don’t know me, and that is probably just as well, but over the last 35 years I have watched this organization grow in spite of my being president two times. During the second term, I helped confront an insurgency to disband the group.
This group of photographers and writers is a valuable witness to the beauty of the out-of-doors. Thank you all for your confidence in RMOWP. Go shoot and write about the outdoors. I am going to take a nap.”