“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
That quote from Miriam Adeney was the first thing I saw this morning, as I began the process of finishing the paper’s final edition after 146 years.
When I came to work in Gibson City nearly three years ago, LeRoy was my home, even though I didn’t grow up there. I had been there since shortly after my husband and I were married in 1995, and he had convinced me it was halfway between my job in Champaign and his job in Normal.
After our two children were born and two more were adopted, it started to feel more like home. The richness of loving people there happened after my oldest son was diagnosed with cancer, and the town embraced our family in ways that only happen in small communities.
While I expected to get to know people in Gibson City, I never expected it would occupy part of my heart. My job was to write about and photograph people and events. Making friends isn’t usually part of the job description, and even when you do make friends, sometimes you lose them when they become part of a news story.
I was always nice to the people I knew from my freelance work—I would often seek their opinions, email them interesting articles or talk to them if I saw them in public. But, I was always proud that people I knew from work and people I considered friends were two distinct groups.
However, Gibson City and the surrounding communities changed all that. While I believe I fairly reported facts and both sides of controversies, it was impossible not to be friends with the remarkable people I've met.
Everyone has a story, and as I met people here and began to learn their stories, it was impossible not to become their friends. And, it was impossible not to love many of them.
From a GCMS Middle School student who wants to fund her college tuition by winning the Miss America Pageant to Shriners who work tirelessly to provide low-cost entertainment and world-class medical care for children, I think my new friends number in the hundreds.
There have been too many that I didn’t get to spend enough time with, most notably two of this papers’ finest editors, Dave Kramer, whose passion for the job, and Doris Benter, whose passion for the people, continued until the day they died. They both gave their lives to the Gibson City Courier, and I tried to live up to the examples they set.
And, there are those whose lives are just beginning—the students at GCMS. I have had the distinct honor of getting to know so many of them. While I don’t consider them my friends, I feel like I’ve added 1,000 children to my family.
Shortly before break, the GCMS High School students honored me by making me an Honorary Falcon. While I’ve had the opportunity to interview celebrities, including the Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone, that assembly will stand out as the highlight of my newspaper career.
I’m not sure where my next job will take me. It might not be in Central Illinois, and it probably won’t be in the newspaper industry.
But, I know one thing for sure. I will never be completely at home again.