Rick Kollinger — the longtime cartoonist and columnist for The Star Democrat — died over the Memorial Day weekend.

Kollinger passed away Monday, May 31, after a long illness.

Rick had a lengthy tenure at The Star Democrat as a columnist and cartoonist, producing approximately 18,000 cartoons and hundreds of columns across three decades with our newspaper.

Rick’s editorial cartoons and perspective could be controversial with plenty of fans and critics. His longevity and provocativeness are testaments to Rick’s creativity and talent as a cartoonist.

Rick’s work also offers important and lasting lessons when it comes to freedom of expression and the First Amendment.

Free speech is very much an American institution even compared to other Western democracies. It is also a constant challenge. We see that today with the drumbeat to restrict or censor certain voices on social media.

The technology and platforms are new but the challenge of free speech is nothing new.

We’ve seen speech and expression challenged by McCarthyism, Hollywood blacklists and content gatekeepers and various incarnations of media oligarchs.

Free speech can be messy and uncomfortable but it is also one of the drivers of American innovation and creativity. It is essential to holding those in power accountable. Rick’s work proved that.

Rick provides a legacy of political and public discourse on the Shore. We can agree or disagree with Rick’s cartoons and columns and his conservative perspectives.

But we should all be in agreement of the importance of listening to each other more — including opposing and controversial views.

Rick’s cartoons and columns provided unique content and perspective on life and politics on the Shore. They show the importance of community voices and community media.

Rick will be missed. We celebrate his life and art. He leaves a lasting and important legacy here in our community and across the Shore.

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