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Sun-Times reporter Kim Janssen wins ‘best obituary’ award

Chicago Sun-Times staff reporter Kim Janssen.

Chicago Sun-Times staff reporter Kim Janssen.

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Updated: June 13, 2013 1:32PM

The Society of Professional Obituary Writers has given its award for the best obituary published in 2012 to Chicago Sun-Times reporter Kim Janssen for his reporting on Delfino “Don Vale” Mora, a Mexican immigrant who found a better life for himself and his family in Chicago but ended up a victim of the city’s violence.

In a year in which more than 500 people were killed in Chicago, Mora’s death stood out because one of the three reputed gang members charged in his death had decided it would be fun to punch the 62-year-old disabled Mora in the jaw and have an accomplice record it on a cellphone and post it to Facebook, according to a prosecutor’s account — a game they called “Pick ’em out and knock ‘em down.”

Mora fell, hit his head and died.

The father of 12 and grandfather of 23 had been a Mexican ranchera singer of some renown before leaving his home in the state of Michoacan for Chicago, where he was disabled in a workplace accident.

Janssen reported on the Mora family’s struggle to come up with the money to have his body returned to Mexico to bury, then traveled to Ciudad Hidalgo for the funeral. He wrote the story of Mora’s death and his life over two days spent mostly at a Mora relative’s home, even as mourning went on through the night around Mora’s open coffin just yards away. His story — published Jan. 23, 2012, with the headline “ ‘Don Vale’ goes home” — previously won the Chicago Headline Club’s Anne Kegan Award for “distringuished journalism reflecting the dignity and spirit of the common man.”

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