Express intern Simon Kinsella, an aspiring journalist who recently earned his master’s degree from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, passed away in his sleep at a friend’s house in San Francisco last week. He was 29. An autopsy did not reveal the cause of death, but a San Francisco deputy coroner reports that there was no evidence of trauma or foul play.
Simon was well liked at the Express — an unconventional spirit with a strong work ethic, a quirky sense of humor, a talent with the written word, and a flair for spotting good stories. He had always wanted to be a writer, recalls his mother, Jane Kinsella, who goes by Jean. His plan was to work in the Bay Area for a few years, then perhaps land a reporting job with The Cincinnati Enquirer or The Plain-Dealer in Cleveland, and eventually move on to New York City, journalism’s ground zero. “He would have loved to do political writing,” Jean says. “He could have done anything.”
He was born in Dublin, Ireland, but immigrated with his family to Cincinnati when he was just eleven weeks old. By age two he was talking up a storm, and already was adamant about going to school. “I had to buy a lunchbox for him and stuff it with pencils and paper,” Jean remembers. When she informed him that teachers didn’t like to change diapers, the toddler suggested that he could be outfitted with extra-heavy nappies so that he wouldn’t need changing. “He loved to learn,” Jean says. “He read and wrote every day of his life. But his greatest gift was with people — everybody Simon became friendly with, they stuck with him.”
Although the family had very little money, Simon kept his early enthusiasm for education, graduating with honors from the University of Cincinnati in 2002. He then received a scholarship for the Cal graduate program, from which he earned his MJ this past spring.
“We are devastated,” says Susan Rasky, Simon’s thesis adviser at Cal. “He was a terrific writer with enormous promise. He had all the best instincts for a journalist — that extra touch of humanity that enabled him to put himself in another person’s shoes. And an Irishman’s gift for storytelling.”
Simon is survived by parents Jane and John; brothers Taigh, Jonathan, and Brendan; and sister Deirdre. Services were this week at St. Veronica Parish in Cincinnati, with subsequent burial at Gates of Heaven cemetery. Correspondence may be addressed to Jane and John Kinsella, 4634 Laurel View Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.
The J-school has set up a scholarship in Simon’s name. Address donations to the Simon P. Kinsella Scholarship Fund, Graduate School of Journalism, 121 North Gate Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720.