In my 30 years at the Metropolis Planet, many of you know that I wasn't the type to write a personal column. In fact, I think I've only done three.
I must admit -- I am a private person. I have opinions. I have experienced triumphs and sorrows, but I have always chosen to keep these life experiences to myself.
But this week's milestone deserves a column because it is my retirement column. As of Friday, I am stepping down as news editor after 30 years of providing news in some fashion or the other to your home.
Even though I am just 55, I am taking an "early retirement opportunity" offer from my employer, Paxton Media Group, who owns the Planet.
Leaving will not be easy. This building at 111 E. Fifth St. has been my home away from home since I started working here as society editor in 1989.
I was 25, had just moved to Metropolis with my husband, Patrick Kennedy, and I didn't know a single soul. We had just bought a home out in the county on North Avenue, and I had been busy for several months making the house a home. But after graduating from Murray State a few years earlier with a degree in business, I was ready to see what was available in the job market of Massac County.
Call it fate I guess, but Clyde Wills, then publisher and editor of the Planet, took a leap of faith and hired a girl who had no journalism experience. The only thing I brought to the table the day of the interview was some college papers, which I had written.
He took a gamble, and though at first he might have had regrets -- having a crash course in AP styles and how to put a few sentences together to make a story -- I pray he looks back and says he made a wise decision that summer afternoon.
But as I look back now, I've done about everything I've ever dreamed of doing at a weekly newspaper. I've had thousands of bylines, hundred or so on the front page. I've celebrated with some of my readers, and cried with others.
I have been blessed by the kindness and yes, sometimes patience, of people I've interviewed over the years.
I will always say that in journalism, you have to know a little bit about everything. I learned how a wicket dam works thanks to articles about the new Olmsted Dam and the demolition of the Brookport Dam. I've learned about chemistry throughout the years -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- with Honeywell located nearby. Covering school boards for both Massac Unit One and Joppa- Maple Grove has made me appreciate teachers and administrators by trying to educate our children on such limited funds.
But the stories I will always remember are the stories of human life. If over these past 30 years you have experienced a birth, a marriage or a death in your family, more than likely you talked to me. I've held countless babies when new moms and dads would bring in their newborn to place a Baby Talk in the Planet. I've helped select the best photos when couples, with love just oozing out of their pores, walk in, wanting to place an engagement announcement, and I have shared a box of tissues when a widow walks in wanting help to place an obituary of her husband of 50 plus years.
I've covered two major tornadoes, three major floods, two crippling ice storms and all of this time, my coworkers and I never missed a single issue, though at times it was challenging.
I've cried on readers' shoulders, and they have cried on mine because in journalism, you can't be a "super human" and have a cold heart. Your heart can get very heavy in this line of work. Even though I cannot relate to a grandparent who just lost their grandchild to suicide, I can relate to loss.
It's been 14 years since the loss of my husband and after that experience, I understood more the emotions a surviving spouse was going through.
And this brings me to why I love this community so much. Every town and city has problems, from drugs to homelessness, but Metropolis, Massac County and southernmost Illinois have always opened its hearts, its muscles and its wallets to those in need.
All of you were there for me when I was left with a 13-year-old and 11-year-old to raise, but thanks to you, the good Lord above, and family and friends, I have two very successful young women who call me "Mom."
They too have spent countless hours at the Planet office, from working on their homework late at night while I was meeting some crazy deadline to both writing a column for the high school for the Planet, called Patriot Perspective. I guess I passed on a little of the journalism bug to them. They both would agree it came in handy in college and even now in their careers.
Thank you, Sarah and Katie, for enduring my schedule and for letting me be a working mom. But also thank you Metropolis Planet for letting me be a mom who never missed a class party, a band concert or a sporting event. I had a job which gave me the flexibility to be a career woman but also a mom who never missed an event with her children.
And lastly, working at the Metropolis Planet has given me the opportunity to meet Superman fans from around the world -- from Australia, Israel and England -- to Hollywood legends and stars. I've covered many Superman Celebration events but the ones, which will always mean the most, were when Noel Neill would stop by the Planet and take part in an autograph session. She always had a kind word and a beautiful smile. She had such a great sense of humor and her beauty radiated the office. Noel and her manager, Larry Ward, were such a lively pair, which made working with them during these sessions a highlight of the celebration.
I always felt like I had "rock star" status one time each year during the celebration. There are not very many people who can say they live in Metropolis, work at the Planet and have the job title as editor, though I am no Perry White.
And because of our "Super" fans, I've always made sure I've seen the latest DC movie, kept up on the comic books and try to watch some of the many television series featuring DC characters. The editor of the Planet has to know Super Heroes, you know.
I have been blessed to work with many, many smart, talented and dedicated people here at the Planet who made working for a newspaper more joy than a job. And there are several who have became part of my family, who helped me be a better daughter, wife and mother.
It will be hard come Friday afternoon to leave my corner of the office for the last time. But rest assured, I'm not leaving Metropolis. You will still see me at the store, at a community event and who knows, I might be called out of retirement to help cover an event or two.
Thanks Metropolis for making my 30 years "super."