I don’t know why reporters ended news stories with the number “30” in the past. Some say it was shorthand for “the end,” a holdover from the days when news was sent by Morse code over telegraph.
Wherever the practice came from, this column is the “30” to my career at The Pantagraph.
I came to the newsroom after I was a community organizer for several years. I started looking for something more stable to raise a family. I turned to my family’s business. My great-grandfather worked at The Pantagraph in the late 1800s before traveling north to the Illinois River valley to buy the weekly Tonica News. The paper passed to my grandfather. My dad was involved in the news business as a kid, folding papers as they came off the press and delivering them. My aunt took over the paper and then my sister, Elin, who owns the Putnam County Record to this day. My mother was a copy editor at the old Streator Times Press.
News writing has been an exciting and challenging career for 32 years since I came to the newsroom as an intern from Illinois State University. I wouldn’t have missed a second of it. I enjoyed going to work wondering what each day would bring. No two days were the same.
Where else do you get to interview childhood heroes like astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto who was from my hometown of Streator? That little chunk of ice will always be a planet to me.
I covered major criminal cases in Twin City history, including the murders of Susan Hendricks and her children Becky, Grace and Benjamin. I was outside their home on a cold December morning after the bodies were found. I was the first reporter to interview David Hendricks, the father and husband of the victims and the prime suspect in their slayings. I remember asking if he and his wife were close. Oddly, he paused so long to answer that simple question that his friend had to answer for him. I reported on his arrest and I was there seven years later when he walked free after the Illinois Supreme Court ordered a retrial. There was no reasonable doubt about who was guilty to me.
For the past 20 years, I’ve had a wonderful time interviewing people involved in every sort of outdoor activity. I was able to write about inspirational people like young Blake Hall, who hunted and fished while he fought cancer that took his leg and eventually his life but never his spirit.
I wrote about endurance athletes, whose fitness message got through to me a few years ago. Readers shared my challenges as I went from cycling and massive weight loss to my own bout with cancer and finally to becoming an Ironman triathlete last September. The Tri-Sharks triathlon club recently voted me the most inspirational triathlete of 2011. I was deeply honored.
I leave the newsroom with no regrets other than the friends I leave behind, both at The Pantagraph and among the readers.
I’m very blessed in my personal life, too. My wife, Kathy, and I have a wonderful blended family. I’m not sure what the next phase will be for us. I’m looking for work as a writer or teacher. As a friend used to quote from a hymn; “I don’t know what tomorrow holds but I know who holds tomorrow.” Whatever comes, I know it will be good. We’ll make it that way. Life goes on. Bring it! What an adventure!