Column ends after 50 years and life of retirement begins
I have finally run out of adjectives.
That's the easiest way to ease into my final column after 50 years of writing for this newspaper.
The Big Day has arrived.
I will return briefly on Friday, Dec. 26, with my best sports quotes of the year, but that one doesn't count. It's a gimmick column that involves research but no real thought.
This is the column that counts. This is the column that appears each week and tries to educate, to inspire, to make you think and maybe even smile a little.
This also is the most difficult column to write, and today's challenge is my greatest one yet.
How do I wrap up 50 years at the Daily Herald in about 25 inches?
I have spent the past few weeks writing about my retirement, but those columns were just the preliminaries for The Big Day.
People ask how I get my column ideas. I have no easy answer.
When you have been hanging around as long as I have, there obviously is a warehouse full of potential ideas just bouncing around in my head. Who knows what triggers them? Something has for 50 years.
I have been privileged to watch kids grow and mature. I have seen our athletic programs expand and develop and girls become such an important part of our high school landscape. I have seen sports and coaching grow into a powerful and dynamic field.
I can't begin to estimate the number of high school sports events I have watched or the number of coaches or young athletes or parents or administrators I have been honored to know.
I have to be careful about naming any names today because there are too many chances of forgetting someone who has had a profound impact on my life.
You know who you are. I'll never forget all of you, and I sincerely hope our paths will cross again.
You have contributed so much to my life, and I hope in some small way I have contributed to yours with my columns.
I have been truly blessed to have a job I thoroughly enjoyed for so long. It didn't seem like work, and I hope my enthusiasm for the kids and their activities was contagious.
When I first joined this newspaper in the summer of 1952 as a high school sophomore and then in 1958 as a graduate of the University of Illinois, I had no idea I was expanding my family.
I already had a great mother, father and sister, but when you came to work at Paddock Publications, your family grew dramatically as the Paddocks, such wonderful people, welcomed you to their home. This company was always about family, and that's why I have treasured all these years.
People truly cared about each other. They even cared about a small, wide-eyed high school kid who was a summer stock boy at the Jewel at the time but really wanted to write about sports and would sweep the floors if asked just to get a part-time newspaper job.
I knocked on Bob Paddock's door in 1952, and, as they say in life, timing is everything. Bob desperately needed summer help in the sports department, and I was hired.
He never asked me to sweep.
I have been here so long I almost feel like I knew Hosea C. Paddock, who bought the Palatine Enterprise for $275 in 1898 and proceeded to build a newspaper that was dedicated to serve its communities.
You can't put 50 years of your life into something without having it become a part of you. Yes, I am retiring, but a part of me is staying on and, hopefully, will remain in the positive way the Daily Herald covers high school sports and the way our reporters continue to understand they are dealing with impressionable teenagers and not prima donna and overpaid professionals.
I have tried to emphasize positive writing to all our full- and part-time reporters for all these years. I am proud of that legacy.
So, I'm not really leaving. I'm simply making an adjustment, one of many I will make now before that final adjustment of all.
You won't see me on these Daily Herald sports pages, but you can look for me on the area sidelines or in the stands. I'll be there.
Retirement will take me out of the office but not away from the young athletes and their coaches and that wonderful experience called high school sports that I love so much.
However, retirement also will enable me to spend more time with grandson Mark, who turns 11 in February. You watched him grow up on these sports pages as a part of my annual column letters.
He's the joy of my life, and I will cherish whatever years I have left to share with Mark, daughter Susan and son-in-law Tom in Madison, Wis.
Now comes the hard part.
Thanks, dear readers, for any time you have spent with my columns through the years. I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you since 1958.
It's time to stop writing and start living a new life. As a former high school track athlete, I can say now I have finally reached the finish line of my 50-year dash.
I told you this would be a tough column to write. Three simple words will end a long career.
Goodbye, good friends.