Dying in the Saddle: Widow Stands By Editor Robert Caldwell

PHOTO: Robert CaldwellFacebook
Oregonian newspaper editor Robert Caldwell is shown in his Facebook profile photo.

Robert Caldwell, a 29-year veteran of the Oregonian and head of its editorial page, won a Pulitzer Prize for the newspaper, but the circumstances of his untimely death are anything but a winning story, particularly for his widow.

The newspaper originally reported that the 63-year-old died of a heart attack last weekend in his car. But it later corrected that story to say the information received from a famility friend was incorrect and the editor had died suddenly after having sex with a 23-year-old college student in her apartment.

The woman, who is a student at Portland Community College, has not been identified. She told authorities Caldwell had paid for her books and other school items, but she did not receive cash that night. There were no prostitution charges, according to the Oregonian.

Meanwhile, Caldwell's wife Lora Cuykendall, described her late husband as a "kind, loving and fair man." She supported her man "unconditionally," at least on her Facebook page.

She said he would have understood why the newspaper published the story and would have "regretted the anguish that it caused to those he loves -- both outside and inside of the newspaper."

His colleagues at the Oregonian also lavished praise on Caldwell's talent and character.

The circumstances of his demise are reminiscent of Nelson A. Rockefeller, who was described in a PBS biography as having an "irrepressible temperament that would be his trademark."

Charming and ambitious, the liberal Republican rose from governor of New York to the vice-presidency under Gerald R. Ford. But his death was an embarrassing black spot on a stellar career.

He died of a heart attack in his Manhattan townhouse atop his female staff assistant, 45 years his junior. His wife Margaretta "Happy" Rockefeller, a notably private person, put on a brave face.

Both women had to deal with the simultaneous death of their husbands and the revelation of infidelity.

"This is way over the top, standing by her man," said Judy Kuriansky, a clinical psychologist and professor at Columbia University's Teachers College.

"It takes a lack of independence and self-esteem to just roll over and give him a pass … It's really egregious and sends a really bad message to his children."

ABCNews.com contacted Cuykendall for comment, but she did not return the call.

The family lived with their youngest daughter, who is a high school student in Portland. They also have two older daughters.

The pair were described by the Portland Business Journal as a "power couple."

Cuykendall was a former associate publisher of Portland's rival Tribune newspaper and now works in the communications department of Oregon Health and Science University.

Caldwell started as a copy editor at the Oregonian in 1983 and rose through the ranks to lead the editorial board in 1995.

In 2010, he was arrested on a DUI charge for driving his pick-up into the back of another vehicle outside a Portland strip club, according to the Portland Mercury. His license was revoked and he was sentenced to a counseling program.

When he died on March 10, Caldwell was at the 23-year-old's Tigard, Ore., apartment. The woman told authorities he began to cough and was unresponsive, so she called 911. He was pronounced dead at the hospital, according to the corrected report by the Oregonian.

Sex Addicts' Behavior Is 'Secretive, Repetitive'

Often, the salacious details in a public figure sex scandal are learned later, as was the case with New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, golf legend Tiger Woods and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, all of whom had embarrassing affairs.

"When the Eliot Spitzer story broke, it was one prostitute. But it turned out to be many times and many women and lots of money," said Robert Weiss, founder and director of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles.

Weiss works with sex addicts, whose sexual behavior is "secretive, repetitive and problematic," he said. He also sees the emotional fall-out among spouses.

For the wife, the biggest hurdle is usually loss of trust, rather than the sexual affair, he said. "Most say, 'If I have doubts about everything that happened in the past, I have doubts about the present and I can't believe what might happen in the future."

Therapists say dealing with the death of a spouse and betrayal can be difficult, but not insurmountable.

"She is not required to cry and break down in public," said LeslieBeth Wish, a relationship expert from Sarasota, Fla.

"This woman in Oregon is doing the right thing for herself -- putting up the firewall," she said "You don't owe anyone the truth except yourself and your children and those who care about you. It's none of their business."

In cases like this, Wish said she asks the spouse what kind of an arrangement she had with her husband: "Was it an open marriage? You don't know and you can't assume that it's as devastating to her as to you or me. We should keep our assumptions in check."

She cites a now-famous interview with Lady Bird Johnson when the first lady said of the president's alleged infidelities, "Lyndon always came home to roost," suggesting she overlooked his dalliances.

But any violation of a private pact could be devastating for a couple, she said. "Any time the marriage goes public, taking out the variable of infidelity, you feel embarrassed."

When the world finds out about an affair, "there's the gossip factor of him dying in the saddle. That's a double embarrassment," according to Wish.

And on a third level, knowing a husband is with a younger, perhaps attractive, woman, "you really feel your own mortality," she said.

As for urging forgiveness, Wish advised, "I would never say that directly to a client. Rather, I would get them to go through their own internal process," weighing the good with the bad.