Blog: Kivela’s Death Is A Loss To Every Yooper

The fact that state representative John Kivela was caught driving while drunk Monday night made me sad, because I know how hard he has been working at staying sober ever since his 2015 drunk driving arrest.

But that degree of sadness is nothing compared to the level of sadness I have as I write to you right now, after finding out that Kivela killed himself on Tuesday. It’s really just starting to set in for me now.

You see, when I am running around between our ten RRN radio stations to get the story on the air, and scrambling to get updated information posted on our web sites, it’s hard to “feel” very much. Yeah, on one level, you do, but you’re so busy doing your job of reporting the news that it doesn’t quite hit you.

But now, here at 2:00 in the morning, with all of our sports stories finally posted on and other news stories posted on, well, it has really hit me.

Yes, as the news director of this radio network, there is some separation between me and the people who I interview and report on. But you get to know people in this business, and I got to know Kivela as a hard-working guy who really did try his best to get legislation through to help the Upper Peninsula.

Kivela worked well with the other state reps and Senator Casperson, even though they were from the opposite party. He was always friendly to me, and always picked up the cell phone when I called asking for a comment on an issue.

I just sat across the table from him, in my office, two weeks ago, when he came to Escanaba to talk about his campaign for state senate. And he was very open about his struggles with alcohol. Kivela had attended an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting that very morning. And he was very open about his struggles during our interview.

We will never know, unfortunately, what led him to make the decision that he did. That’s the horrible thing about suicide. It’s permanent. There is no chance to change your mind. There are a lot of people hurting right now. Friends. Family. They are all in my prayers. Every Upper Peninsula resident has lost today.

—later, Jack