After nearly three and a half years as The Sun’s managing editor, I find myself saying goodbye – or at least adieu – to friends new and old.
I started my new job Monday as editor of the Russellville Courier.
I hadn’t planned any more goodbyes. Jonesboro and Northeast Arkansas are home to me, and it was nice being home after 30-plus years away.
But the economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on The Sun just like every other business in Jonesboro, and things are changing.
Luckily, The Courier is a sister newspaper to The Sun so I am staying with the same company, Paxton Media Group, and I am getting to stay in Arkansas, where most of my friends and family reside. For a couple of minutes there, I thought I was North Dakota bound.
I really dislike saying goodbye, but at the same time, I like saying hello to new experiences, places and people.
As a military kid, moving was not a big deal – the worst part was a great number of toys seemed to disappear between one state and the next, but they were soon forgotten when new toys appeared at Christmas.
Most of my elementary years were spent between Fort Worth, Texas, Omaha, Neb., and Pocahontas. In 1968, we moved to Blytheville when my dad was stationed at Eaker Air Force Base.
Even while he was stationed at Blytheville, we moved quite a bit, living in Blytheville, Luxora, Osceola, and finally just outside Manila.
The two constants during our time in Mississippi County were The Commercial Appeal and The Jonesboro Sun. My parents subscribed to both newspapers faithfully and I grew up reading them – although in the ’60s and early ’70s my attention was limited to the comics page and entertainment news.
I’ve always been a movie nerd, and my earliest memories of my other nerd hobby, martial arts, came in the pages of the Commercial Appeal where I’d see ads for Kang Rhee’s karate in Memphis.
Decades later, I’d train with one of Rhee’s black belts in Bentonville, but as a 9-year-old, I was intrigued by the black and white ads featuring Rhee in a white uniform and looking like a superhero. This was before the Bruce Lee and the “kung fu fighting” craze of the ’70s.
Some weekends we would come to Jonesboro to shop, and a few times we came to Jonesboro to catch live “rasslin” (as opposed to actual wrestling) which was being aired, I believe, live on KAIT.
My grandmother, Mary Crisp of Pocahontas, was the “rasslin” fanatic and my mom accompanied her to Jonesboro for the spectacle. I don’t remember much about the actual event, other than someone getting smacked on the head with a folding chair and the unabashed glee the sound of the chair thwacking someone’s head seemed to elicit in my grandmother.
Northeast Arkansas also has dark memories for me, and it’s been strange walking those roads again.
My mom, Zee, was killed by a drunken driver outside of Paragould in 1972, as we were on our way back to Manila from visiting my grandparents in Pocahontas. I was severely injured in the accident, which occurred in August.
We moved from Manila to Pocahontas, and I started the eighth grade with a still partially shaved head and scars from the crash.
The bad hairdo got me the brief attention of Pocahontas Junior High’s most beautiful cheerleader, which was nice. I also made lifelong friends, Chuck and Michelle Kercheval and Kathy Dust of Pocahontas.
After high school I joined the Navy for the GI Bill benefits, and in 1982 I returned to Jonesboro from Oceanside, Calif., so I could get my journalism degree.
It was in college here in Jonesboro that I feel like my life actually began – I made lifelong friends, fell in love, had my first real heartbreak, and also met people who were sort of like me for the first time, most of whom I now just see on Facebook.
I was infamous at A-State for a couple years due to my penchant for writing columns that caused grief for Dr. Joel Gambill and the communications college dean Robert Hoskins. One of my high school friends from Pocahontas would write letters to The Herald editor lambasting my columns. It was great fun for me, but I can’t speak for Dr. Gambill or Dean Hoskins.
My brother from another mother, Thomas Jacques, and I even published an alternative literary magazine on campus for a while entitled “Aggie Road,” which seemed to confound both the student body and the administration, but we did it anyway.
As I drove out of Jonesboro in December 1985, after finishing up my courses at Arkansas State University, I felt like I was being exiled from paradise.
Somewhere around Hardy, I had to pull over, and I bawled like a baby.
So here I am, 35 years later, packing to leave Jonesboro once more.
I’ll miss being close to my Pocahontas friends, and I’ll miss my pre-COVID visits with my aunt, Sister Mary John Seyler.
And I will certainly miss my co-workers and friends at The Sun. You couldn’t find a more professional bunch of people, especially Editor Chris Wessel. It’s been an honor and a privilege, and better than that, it’s been fun.
But I am also excited to see what the next chapter brings. It will be nice being closer to NWA, where I still have lots of friends, and yet not so far from Jonesboro that I can’t come back for a visit.
Everyone stay safe, keep reading The Sun, and I’ll leave you with the words of Groucho Marx:
Hello, I must be going.
I’m glad I came/ but just the same
I must be going.