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A final word in a career of words: goodbye

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By Doug Bell

“And if I’d have known then, what I know now

“I’d never let you disappear into the crowd

“Or turn away the way I did

“With so much left unsaid

“If I … if I’d have known it was the last time.”

— Lee Ann Womack

 

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

My journalism journey began 43 years ago on a manual typewriter as sports editor of my junior high newspaper. It ends today with my final column — and, as with other journalists these days, as an enemy of the White House. I didn’t make that list during the Nixon years, but apparently longevity and persistence eventually are rewarded.

In trying to sum up the past four decades, my initial thought was to simply list the colleagues and friends and newsmakers who made those years so enjoyable — but there simply isn’t space for that in print. Folk singer David Wilcox once said that the human heart has an infinite number of rooms, and I fervently believe that’s true. It has been my great fortune in this career, and in life, that my own heart has had very few vacancies.

I’ll talk about a few of those guests today. As a college journalism teacher and an editor for many years, I frequently hear this question: “Is he/she one of your kids?” The query is often from another editor or a public relations professional looking to make a hire, or from another instructor seeking advice on how to motivate a student.

I’m not a biological parent, but I’m comforted to know that scores of “my kids” are out there making a difference in the world, those still working as reporters or editors and others who have found different career paths. I take enormous pride in having taught them a few things, and I’m also confident that all of them know how much I treasure their presence in my life.

What these “kids” (some now with kids of their own) probably don’t realize is how much they have taught me. About courage. About persistence. About patience. About overcoming long odds. About loyalty and friendship.

I’ve also been very fortunate to work with some of the finest journalists on the planet, at papers from the beloved Rocky Mountain News to the spunky Greeley Tribune to these excellent weeklies that serve South Jeffco, Evergreen/Conifer and Clear Creek County. My regular readers know that I spend a fair amount of my time off on hockey rinks, and every goalie knows — as does every editor — that you’re only as good as the people who surround you.

The people who have surrounded me at Evergreen Newspapers have regularly made this editor appear far better than I am. These past and present staff members have been tireless, fearless and talented, and about the most I can take credit for is hiring them. I’m honored beyond words to know that they called me “boss” (though I’m sure on my worst days they also called me other things). Some of them still greet me as “boss” or “chief” many years later — and my heart swells every time I hear it.

As I sat down to write this column, I kept thinking about the final episode of “M*A*S*H,” and how Mike Farrell’s character struggled to say goodbye to Hawkeye, the friend who had become his brother. I too am known to have a very hard time saying goodbye. But I have learned that life arbitrarily imposes goodbyes on all of us, and that the only thing worse than having to say it is forsaking the chance to do so.

So I say this, to our readers, to my staff and to the many folks who have made my decade here as editor a wonderful and memorable experience: Till we meet again …

Doug Bell is the former editor of Evergreen Newspapers.