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Memories Found In Every Corner Of The Office


September 2, 2021

How could I forget?

Cleaning out your office after 38 years is a daunting task – physically, emotionally and every other way. I spent weeks working on it before my time at the Countywide ended last week. And, no, I didn’t get finished.

How could I forget about the hundreds of semi-operational pens and pencils in my top left-hand desk drawer? About the bottomless supply of unused notecards in another drawer? About the files in the big drawer going back to the early 1980s?

Fortunately, most of the stuff went in the trash – although it was painful at times. The desk was the top priority, since No. 1 Son was claiming his great-grandfather Gillenwater’s desk as his own. It’s a wonderful old solid oak desk that, according to family legend, my grandfather used while he was Secretary of Labor for the State of Tennessee back when. I’m happy Greg wanted it for his home office.

How could I forget some of the biggest stories I covered? I found a foot-thick file on the Tecumseh Board of Education’s Supreme Court Case on drug testing. Is that worth preserving? It was history made right here, folks. And then there was the file on Kay Christiansen’s volatile race for District Attorney a while back, when the Dark Shadow used every dirty trick in the book against her – and us. I’m glad those days are gone, but I’m proud we stood up to them.

How about the year the Tecumseh girls won the state basketball championship? What a thrill that was! Or when armed bad guys took everyone at Ralph’s Pharmacy hostage at gunpoint? Or the first big story for us, when Jeff Perry was kidnapped and murdered.

Not as exciting but perhaps more important: when voters made the county sales tax permanent, Wes Watkins Reservoir was built and later finally connected to Tecumseh, and two Pottawatomie County natives, Brad Henry and Mary Fallin, were back-to-back governors of our great state. Not to mention Tecumseh continuing its unblemished record of approving school bonds so the system could continue to grow and serve its students.

How could I forget all of the amazing people I met over almost four decades? Dairy farmers (I got lost trying to find the Silers’ place), cops and firemen, teachers and administrators, elected officials, heroes, villains – some of everything, really. And the thrill of watching kids grow up and into responsible adults, despite some bumpy beginnings.

How could I forget all the people who have worked so hard to make their communities better places to live? These are unsung heroes, even if they sometimes look like troublemakers. There’s truth to that squeaky wheel adage. I really miss the active civic clubs of previous decades: the Business & Professional Women, the Jaycees and Jaynes and others. Some are still around but do not take the leadership roles their predecessors did.

Here’s an unescapable truth: it’s all about leadership. Nothing is accomplished without it.

And that’s not just elected officials, although of course they are part of it. Leadership can and should come from those civic clubs, from churches, from businesses and volunteer organizations. And especially from your local newspaper. Treasure it. Nurture it.

How could I forget all the people who helped Wayne and me make this newspaper respected and feared for almost four decades? We had so many wonderful employees from Day 1 in August 1983. Over the years, there were so many that I’d get in big trouble if I started trying to name them. You know who you are, and I hope you know how much we appreciated and loved you.

That brings us to Suzie Campbell, who bought the newspaper from us a few years ago. There is no way to tell you how important that was to us – and to you. Suzie is committed to a strong, local newspaper and is doing a great job continuing that tradition. We are so proud of her.

Finally, how could I forget you, gentle reader? You’re the reason I worked 80 hours a week for 35 years, damning the torpedoes and going full steam ahead. But it was worth it; all of your wonderful comments and good wishes said so. Of course, there are those we haven’t heard from …

Maybe I’ll just forget them.


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