It’s not goodbye; it’s ‘see you around.’
People who love their jobs never really retire from them. The jobs become part of their blood and bones. And that would be me. At age 70, I retired recently from my 20-year job as editor of the St. Joseph/Sartell-St. Stephen Newsleaders.
But not really; it’s not a total retirement because I will continue to write as a freelancer for those newspapers. I just can’t totally let go of a job I’ve loved so long.
My two decades with the Newsleaders have been wonderful years, thanks to the unwavering support of its founder/owner/publisher Janelle Von Pinnon. I often dubbed her the “Energizer Bunny” because she is non-stop passionately dedicated to providing local news through thick and thin. The word “quit” is not in her vocabulary.
There are so many people to thank, including the many talented and fun fellow employees I’ve worked with year after year.
Reporting is such a fascinating job because it involves an endless curiosity, always meeting people, each with a unique life story to tell. I’ve interviewed people from the entire spectrum of humanity: poets, inventors, gardeners, woodworkers, musicians, mechanics, street workers, high-achieving students, business entrepreneurs, historians, novelists, athletes, brilliant nuns, police officers, artists, doctors, nurses, teachers, stamp collectors . . . well, the list goes on.
In St. Joseph, there were so many happy, upbeat stories to cover: parks and trails developments, the downtown revitalization projects, the formation and ongoing success of the St. Joseph Area Historical Society, the farmers’ markets, businesses opening, the annual birdhouse-building family event, the good-deed projects by the churches and by service clubs such as the St. Joseph Lions and Y2K Lions, the annual quilting ladies and their colorful masterpieces, the opening of the Wobegon Trail and its shelter, the fantastic new city hall and plans for a community center, the many arts events and exhibits in town and on the campuses. Those are just some of the many things I’ve enjoyed writing about.
Annual events that were always a pleasure to cover were the Fourth of July Parade, the Church Parish Bazaar and the Joe Town Rocks concert the night before with the legendary Bobby Vee, his sons and guest bands. I’d been coming to St. Joseph for the Parish Festival since I was a wee kid in the 1950s so covering that as a reporter was a lot like “coming home” again in a time machine to the past.
Of course, not all news is happy news. For more than 30 years, long before I joined the Newsleaders, I had been haunted by the vicious abduction of Jacob Wetterling. It was heart-wrenching to interview his parents, Dr. Jerry and Patty, because I could not even imagine the constant nagging heartache they had to endure for all those years. I had come to the conclusion Jacob would probably never be found, never come home again. Then one day, as we all know, his killer confessed. Jacob’s remains were found. A terrible ending, closure or not.
What always so impressed me is how the Wetterlings, despite the never-ending agony, reached out to others – other parents and families of children who “disappeared.” It took so much courage and energy to try to bring something good out of something so awful. But they did. They did it so well, and thanks to them, they and their foundation are still helping families, educating people, reaching out to others.
Some years ago, Cori Hilsgen, Newsleader writer, wrote a great story about a man who had a heart attack in St. Joseph Catholic Church. In that church that day, everyone scrambled to help save the man. They were emergency personnel and people from every walk of life. Cori’s story encapsulated so vividly how, when bad things happen, people with big hearts in a small town spring forth to help. That’s St. Joseph.
I want to thank our readers, our advertisers and all the people who gave us so many story tips. I hope you continue to keep those good story ideas coming to the Newsleader, to the attention of its new editor, Mike Knaak, whom I’m happy to report was my college photojournalism teacher once upon a time. And Mike, lucky guy, I’m also happy to report, is younger than me.
In my retirement – well, OK, partial retirement – I plan to do some traveling, novel-writing, oil-painting and – yes – some newspaper writing.
So instead of saying “So long, goodbye,” I’ll say “Hey, hope to see you around.”