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Columnist 'Oliver Towne' dies

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Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Gareth (Gary) Hiebert, a newspaper columnist who chronicled life in St. Paul for three decades under the pseudonym "Oliver Towne," has died. He was 83 and died Friday of pneumonia.

Hiebert began writing the column for the St. Paul Dispatch in 1954 and continued writing it until he retired in 1986, the year after the Dispatch folded into the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

"He knew St. Paul like the back of his hand," his daughter Julie Hiebert said.

Don Boxmeyer, a retired Pioneer Press columnist, said Hiebert was one of the first people to recognize that the city was a collection of separate neighborhoods. "We were both interested in oddball characters, ... ordinary people doing extraordinary things," Boxmeyer said.

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A New Ulm native, Hiebert got his journalism start in the southern Minnesota city. He was sports editor of the New Ulm Daily Journal at age 16 and became city editor before he left high school.

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