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posted: 5/26/2013 5:00 AM

Always happy to run your letters: For free!!!

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Always happy to run your letters -- for free!!!

It was a terrifying time for Joe and Annette Huber.

Joe, 75, was driving; his wife, Annette, was the passenger. The South Elgin couple were in an unfamiliar portion of Crystal Lake, running an errand to a fabric store, when Joe felt "clammy." They had just crossed busy Route 14 and were at a four-way stop when Joe "just passed out cold," says Annette, 74.

From there, who knows what could have happened, but it turned out to be one of those occasions that restores your faith in humanity. Annette says at least a half dozen people stopped to help the Hubers. One moved Joe from the driver's side to the passenger's side of the car; another called 911 and stayed with the Hubers until first responders arrived. Another led Annette to the hospital where Joe was checked out. (Turns out it was an allergic reaction to some medicine. He's fine.)

In the swirl of events, as you can imagine, Annette's wasn't taking names and numbers. But she truly want to thank her good Samaritans. So she did what every right-thinking American should do: She wrote a letter to her local newspaper.

Here's my favorite part of the story. When the letter didn't publish immediately, Annette followed up with a query:

"This is my second request to have this note published. I realized a few days after I sent the first one that I failed to say we would be happy to pay for its publication. It was a very stressful time for us and I slipped up, sorry. If you can publish it please let me know what the charge is. That's only fair. We're just so very grateful for the people that helped, we want to acknowledge them. I have no way of knowing whether you published it or not as we get a different version of the paper. Would you drop me a line either way? Thank you."

I don't know if that's a first for the Daily Herald, but it's certainly the first time in my experience that a letter writer has offered to pay for its publication. In fact, I've had more than one person argue that it's their God-given right to have their letters published. So, not only were the Hubers going a step beyond, their letter was something you don't see all the time in the letters column. It was ... nice.

So, of course, we were happy to run the Hubers' letter. For free. It appears online and in some of our print editions.

It also inspired one other thought: Why don't we start saving our favorite letter, then publish the very best at the end of the year? The idea was approved by my partners in letters-to-the-editor crime, Jim Slusher, assistant managing editor/opinion, and Colleen Thomas, assistant Opinion page editor. We didn't get into much discussion about what the criteria will be, but I'm sure it will be a well-read feature. Heck, letters to the editor always have been and no doubt will continue to be.

I created a special holding file for our faves, and the Hubers' letter was the first entry. It was followed by another, which will appear in tomorrow's Memorial Day editions: a reminder to just say "thank you" to a veteran. Much like the Hubers' letter, it was the back story that appealed to me. The letter didn't arrive via email; it was hand delivered to our Elgin office by a couple of older gents, one a World War II veteran.

Always happy to run such a letter. No charge.

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