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Wednesday, April 17, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Milton T. Stapp, 87, Who Wrote `Hash' Crime Column Since 1955

Today will be the last time Seattle readers will be served their real "Hash."

The eccentric but lovable Milton T. Stapp - who began cooking up the newspaper column on criminal tidbits in 1955 - died Monday, and his last "Hash" column was to run today in the North Seattle Press.

Although Mr. Stapp remained seriously ill the past couple of months because he declined medical care, he managed to keep true to his breezy style for today's column, which the 87-year-old completed about three weeks ago.

Mr. Stapp's opening item states:

"A 24-year-old woman discovers that the rear window of her parked car is broken . . . She labels her ex-boyfriend as the possible suspect when she calls 911. She tells a responding officer, "I think he did it because he was quite upset when he found out I am pregnant, and he learned my current boyfriend is the father-to-be!"

"No one can replace Milton as Hash," said North Seattle Press Editor Michelle Buetow, "but the future of the column is yet to be determined. He was one of a kind."

Buetow has not made a decision on whether to end the venerable column partly because Mr. Stapp's researcher-collaborator, Trudy Weckworth, 78, may want to continue it.

Mr. Stapp was born Aug. 17, 1903, in Seattle, where he lived his entire life. He attended Bagley Elementary School and in 1920 graduated from Ballard High School.

Mr. Stapp picked journalism as a career at an early age. At 14 he published The Magnet to keep his neighborhood abreast of births and other neighborhood affairs.

In December 1922, Mr. Stapp founded a weekly shopper in Seattle. It was a one-man operation with him doing the typesetting, printing and delivering of the 1,000 copies each Friday.

Eventually, Mr. Stapp operated several small shoppers, which he combined into The Wallingford Herald. The Herald later became the North Central Outlook.

In 1954 Mr. Stapp's brother, Stan Stapp, became the sole owner of The Outlook. The following year Mr. Stapp started his "Hash" column, which appeared in The Outlook and later in publications such as the University Herald and the Ballard News Tribune.

Often the items that Mr. Stapp included in "Hash" were controversial, and in 1987 the News Tribune stopped carrying "Hash Ground Fresh Weekly," leaving the North Seattle Press as the column's sole publisher. The Press, published every other week, renamed the column "Hash Ground Fresh Bi-Weekly."

In discontinuing "Hash," the editor of the News Tribune said Mr. Stapp was insensitive in writing about sensitive crimes.

Mr. Stapp fancied himself much more than community journalist.

He saw himself as an inventor who developed the prototypes of games later known as "Table Soccer" and "Foosball." He also invented a sifter to strain garden soil. Mr. Stapp never patented his inventions.

He also was a kite enthusiast who had a reel containing four miles of twine. He was said to be able to put 12 five-foot kites on one string.

Trudy Weckworth met Mr. Stapp in 1950 and was helping care for him before he died in his Seattle apartment.

Today for the last time, the public will get to read Mr. Stapp's writings about public occurrences. Those who knew him on a more intimate basis, though, will get one more reading.

Mr. Stapp was in the habit of keeping a journal on people he knew, Weckworth said yesterday. She explained: "He made a card on a person after he met them. He just kept a file on them. They'd graduate from a card to a file to a box." Soon Weckworth expects to contact everyone in a card, file or box.

"In a few weeks we will have a little gathering so people can pick up their files," Weckworth said. "It will be a wonderful night. They will look at their file and remember Milton."

In addition to his brother Stan, Mr. Stapp is survived by three daughters, Brownie Mortlock of Spokane, Louise Braun of Seattle and Jerilee Ruiz of Fresno, Calif.; a sister, Patricia Bishop of San Leandro, Calif.; and 26 grandchildren.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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