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Greg Palmer dies of cancer

Writer and Emmy award-winning television reporter Greg Palmer died on Friday, May 8. He was 61 years old.

A Mercer Island native, Palmer was a prolific writer, with stories, plays, comedies and documentaries covering a wide range of subjects. He was also a beloved name in local radio and TV, creating humorous vignettes that reflected American culture, politics and people. Palmer’s light-hearted character and witty tongue defined him.

His most recent book, “Cheese Deluxe: A Memoir,” a collection of short stories about a group of teenagers who frequented a popular burger joint on Mercer Island in the 1960s, was published in December 2008, just weeks after he learned that he had terminal lung cancer.

Despite his illness, the author appeared at Island Books for a reading of “Cheese Deluxe.” Island Books owner Roger Page said it was the most popular reading that the store had seen in years. Dozens of former friends, classmates and acquaintances of Palmer’s — along with his family and current friends — packed the small bookstore to hear Palmer recount anecdotes from his teenage years on Mercer Island. Many in the room grew up on the Island and remembered Palmer from his youth.

Palmer had a penchant for witticism. He once wrote his own obituary for The Seattle Times. The darkly humorous piece served as a promotion for his 1993 documentary on death, dying and grief in cultures across the world.

A television writer and commentator on KING TV during the 1970s and 1980s, Palmer was perhaps best known for his creative pieces about odd topics, culture and art, former colleagues said. The man was also a playwright and an actor, with his work appearing on KCTS Seattle, at local theaters and various Shakespeare in the Park productions. He worked in television as a talk-show host and news reporter, among other jobs.

In 1996, Palmer became a producer and writer for KCTS. He contributed a weekly series of humorous commentaries for a regional public affairs discussion program.

In addition to his comic pieces, Palmer produced several documentaries for the local TV channel. His work also appeared on CBS/PBS international and KING TV. It covered a variety of topics from Pacific Northwest history to Russian folklore.

Palmer devoted much of his life caring for his son, Ned, who has Down syndrome. In 2002, Palmer published “Adventures in the Mainstream: Coming of Age with Down Syndrome,” a largely biographical journal inspired by his son.

In the book, Palmer documented Ned’s transition from boyhood to manhood and how father and son coped with the developmental disorder. Raising awareness for Down syndrome was a personal commitment of Palmer’s.

Ned, 27, survives his father along with brother, Ira, 30, and their mother, Cathryn.

Palmer’s accomplishments as a reporter, writer and producer will be honored with a lifetime achievement award at the 46th annual Northwest Emmy Awards later this month.

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