Decades ago, when I was about 10 or 12, I calculated what year it would be when I reached 65, the full retirement age at that time. The year turned out to be 2013.
It seemed so far away. I couldn’t envision that year, me, or what life would be like so far into the future. But here I am, now 65 years and 1 month old, wondering how I got here so fast.
This is a farewell column of sorts, but it’s not a goodbye. I will retire from the Record-Eagle on Friday, but will continue my monthly column and also write occasional stories as a freelancer.
I have worked for the Record-Eagle for 35 years, more than half my lifetime. I started on April 13, 1978 as a reporter. I wrote stories for four years, then worked as city editor for 12, followed by a variety of other newsroom titles over the years.
My original plan in 1978 was to stay only a year. By the end of that first year, however, I had fallen in love with this area, the Big Lake, our communities and people.
Over the past weeks, many have asked what I’m most proud of during my time here. Two in-depth, public service series and the Record-Eagle’s 150th Anniversary History Project pop instantly to mind.
“Faces of Poverty,” an eight-day series published in 1990 took a look at the region’s poverty and its effects. It won many awards, including a prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Distinguished Reporting on human rights and social justice issues. Rotary Charities ordered 500 reprints and gave them to Rotary Club members to read before deciding on its grant awards that year.
The 1991 five-day series on the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed reported on the importance of regional environmental stewardship, planning and management of this valuable resource that crosses all city, village and township lines in five-county region.
Both in-depth reports required amazing effort and dedication of our staff.
The Record-Eagle 150th Anniversary History Project in 2008 wins my vote as the best research, reporting and writing assignment of my total 42-year newspaper career. It was the brainchild of then executive editor Bill Thomas.
The 40-page supplement chronicling area history since 1858 took six months to research and a few months to write. A 20-page supplement of additional local stories followed in 2009. This project could not have been as special as it was without two important community institutions that I hope will always be cherished: The Traverse City Area District Library and the History Center of Traverse City.
The history project taught me something important. We as individuals and as a region need our history and our architecturally significant buildings.
They help give us a sense of place, a feeling of rootedness and connection — both are important to sustaining and building strong communities.
People also ask what I will do after retirement. I’ll write more about that in upcoming columns.
I have so many things I still want to do, see, read and write in my lifetime, and it feels like it’s time to get started.
These past 35 years at the Record-Eagle have been a beautiful ride and dance.
Thank you to all who came to the retirement party Tuesday evening at the City Opera House, sent me emails, letters and Facebook posts this week. Thank you for the support, love, humor, laughs and tears, and appreciation over the years.
You are the reason I stayed.