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It was to be a pit stop in my journalism career.
With six years of reporting under my belt, I came to The Guardian in September 1993 set to work at my second daily newspaper for a year or two, then move on to a larger news organization.
Ideally, I thought at the time, my next job would be with the Ottawa Citizen (a paper I had frequently freelanced for) in the city where I went to high school and later studied journalism at Algonquin College.
Funny thing is The Guardian turned out to be such a comfortable fit that I chose not to look elsewhere for work and ended up reporting for this paper for the past 27 years.
It has been a rewarding quarter century and change. It is also time to put the keyboard aside and jump into what I plan to be a busy retirement.
Over the years, I wrote hundreds of Weekend Reports that ran on the front page of Saturday’s newspaper. I attempted (I hope somewhat successfully) to dive deeply into issues of importance to Islanders, such as challenges accessing services for health, both physical and mental.
Those articles were satisfying to write, but often paled in comparison to putting together pieces on the many fascinating people that call Prince Edward Island home.
I feel blessed to have been able to share with readers the lives of Islanders who have made a true mark, some through courage, others perhaps by compassion, entrepreneurship or athleticism.
Interviewing prominent people, like premiers, bishops, generals and gold medallists – even my childhood idol Jack Nicklaus – was a treat. Yet it has been the lives of people like the late Mary Ripley that I have most relished writing about.
It was a joy to introduce to readers of The Guardian people like Mary — a truly one-of-a-kind generous soul who was affectionately known as The Bread Lady – who may otherwise only have been known to family, friends and the select strangers that were on the receiving end of her touching kindness.
I did not want people like Mary to fly under the radar. I wanted all of our readers to know a spirited woman in her sixties had spent more than a dozen years baking thousands of loaves of bread, delivering loaf after loaf to one home or another simply as a goodwill gesture, never wanting so much as a hint of praise or gratitude in return.
Such heartwarming articles would inevitably have some readers commenting that there needs to be more good news stories in the paper.
I would delight any time a reader praised one of my stories. Reporters, you see, are a bit like children that hunger for a pat on the back.
Just watch the proud expression on a reporter’s face when he or she is told ‘that is a great question.’
Readers have not hesitated over the years to offer me constructive criticism as well. I always welcomed such productive input.
The nitpicking over grammar and typos, on the other hand, I could have lived without.
I have had the pleasure of working with many talented, enthusiastic reporters in The Guardian newsroom over the years.
I applaud their dedication to the profession and thank them for their friendship.
To you, the reader, I hope I have been able to inform and entertain.
I hope, too, that some articles caused you to raise your arms in anger, but more importantly to speak up for change to improve the lives of fellow Islanders.
Lastly, but most importantly, I thank my lovely wife Sherri for her never-ending support, tolerance and love that helped greatly in fueling my journalism career.
I am, at least for now, tapped out.