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Thank you, Northeast Michigan, for a home

As of Friday, it was official … I have joined the ranks of the retired.

In the words of Howard Cosell’s booth partner, Don Meredith: It’s time “to turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

But, oh, what a party it has been.

I have been blessed beyond measure in my 42-year professional career, and I consider it divine intervention that, of those 42 years, 32 were spent right here Northeast Michigan.

Thank you for allowing me the privilege to spend time in your homes every Saturday morning. Thank you for supporting the families of my coworkers each week through your purchase of the newspaper. I know I — and we as a staff — have tried to make the most of every penny spent on a newspaper subscription. Hopefully, you have realized the value of that investment and you feel better-informed of the news and events from across the region.

As a reporter, as an editor, and as a newspaper publisher, I have written thousands of pieces over this career. I have met movie stars and interviewed a president. I have been shot at during a United Mine Workers’ strike and I have been physically threatened as a reporter. I have seen stories that made readers smile, and I have seen stories that made readers cry.

Because I am often asked, let me share my most favorite story.

Let me tell you the story of Miss Clare Bester, an 85-year-old woman in Martins Ferry, Ohio, whom I interviewed probably now 37 years ago. At the time, I was tipped off that Miss Bester was going to have the heat to her home turned off in the days ahead for falling behind in her payments.

That grandmotherly woman had taken ill months prior and was still trying to get out from under all the bills that had accumulated from that hospital experience. A proud woman, while Miss Bester was known by many in the city, few knew she faced the utility shutoff.

Somehow, she agreed to an interview with me and, after writing a story about her and her plight, readers started flooding the woman with financial gifts to stem the shutoff. Within a day, she had more than enough to meet her outstanding obligation to the utility company, whose officials, after reading the story, also waived her bill.

If ever I doubted the importance of the written word, Miss Bester’s story convinced me of the valuable job journalists have. That story showed me the power of the press firsthand, and the responsibility we had to tell the important stories of the communities where we worked fairly and objectively.

As I have told hundreds of reporters who I have hired over the years, “If you do your job correctly, the newspaper will be the mirror of the community — reflecting on its pages what is taking place in the community that they cover.”

The truth is, newspaper reporters are the Northeast Michigan historians of today. We are documenting history now for future generations.

As you can see, I believe it was important work that I have done all these years.

And it was interesting. For, every day I went to work these 42 years, I never knew what news would make the front page of the newspaper for the next edition. I had no idea where the news was going to come from or who it would involve. I only knew for sure one thing — that, yes, Virginia, like Santa Claus, there would be a newspaper tomorrow.

And there always has been.

As I said, I have been fortunate to call this region home. I have been fortunate to have had the career that I have.

But it is time now to pass the torch on to the next generation. I know Justin Hinkley will do a good job, and I hope you embrace him in his new role like you did me.

You will still find me on weekends, sharing my thoughts with you via this column.

But, on weekdays now, that will be a different story. The stream is calling or the grandkids need visited.

Thank you, Northeast Michigan, for your support and love. You embraced me, and you embraced my family.

I appreciate each of you more than you ever will know. You made this place home for my family and me, and, for that, I always will be grateful to you.

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