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Words fail me as I think of writing about my time here at the El Campo Leader-News. When it comes to other people’s stories, the words seem to flow more freely. So here goes ...

For 28 years and 10 months, I have walked in and out these doors at the newspaper, covering events from fair pageants, church, school, club and holiday events, high school graduations, festivals, fundraisers and so many more that I haven’t the room or the memory to list them all.

Publisher Shannon Crabtree and myself are the only two that still remain here for the almost past three decades. Over the course of this time, this career has allowed me to meet thousands of people I would not have otherwise met if it were not for my position as lifestyle editor here at the newspaper.

Some of the lyrics of “In My Life,” sung by one of my favorite artists during the mid-60s, comes to mind, especially when I replace just one word. “There are people (places) I remember all my life, though some have changed. Some forever not for better, some have gone and some remain.”

In my life, foremost on my list of people I remember is “Mr. B,” known to most as Fred Barbee. Mr. B was a true gentleman with a genuine sense of humor. He was always approachable, fair, polite and complimentary. I have been very blessed to have known and worked for him.

His son, Chris, was actually the person who hired me, and to him I am grateful that he took a chance on a West Texas gal who knew little about journalism. It was either sink or swim in the early days, and by the grace of God I found my niche here and continued to grow under his guidance.

In addition to covering events, publishing life events such as weddings and birth announcements, I have written many human interest stories for the Leader-News, so many I haven’t a clue how many.

Early in my career, I had the opportunity to meet the oldest woman in Wharton County, Maude Conic. She was 106 at the time of my first interview with her when she told me her fascinating story of surviving the Great Storm of 1900 in Galveston. I interviewed her on several other occasions and attended her birthday parties before her death at the age of 116. She was also featured in a documentary film.

There are others I remember, too. The late Ann Leach, a columnist whose articles appeared in the Lifestyle section, despised anyone editing her articles ... but I did it anyway.

After a few butting of the heads, I’d like to think we finally found a compromise and became friends. Ann was instrumental in the success of several organizations, like the BEEs (Beautify El Campo Extension), which still exists today.

She was a strong advocate for beautification efforts in El Campo. If there was trash in the streets or in your yard, she would point it out in her articles.

There have been others, too, who have made a difference in El Campo that I had the privilege to have written about their volunteer efforts.

One such person who comes to mind is Martha Johnson, one of the most selfless people I believe I have ever met. Martha, who passed away several years ago, was the backbone of the Thanksgiving feast in the early years until her health could no longer take on the challenge.

She solicited the help of others who cooked turkeys, made all the side dishes and delivered them door-to-door to shut-ins and those without family on Thanksgiving Day. Volunteers gave of their time to make sure Martha’s mission was a success.

I, along with my husband Randy and our two children, Ryan and Allison, helped deliver meals for a couple of years and learned a real lesson in giving thanks. She also headed up the back-to-school drive, again soliciting the help of local businesses and individuals to donate items to be distributed to school age kids.

Martha had her hand in other mission work, but these two stand out the most. Together, Crabtree, myself and others in the community nominated Martha for Citizen of the Year. She was the first person of color to receive this award.

Last on my list, but by far not the least, are the stories of Pearl Harbor survivor D.D. Hill. As a family friend, I learned more about Mr. Hill as I wrote about his Naval experiences and the 100-year old home he built from a Sears kit.

He was also instrumental in founding the Special Friends Program at Northside Elementary, a program that mentored students struggling with their grades. Because of D.D., my husband and I became involved in the program and mentored one of those students.

Last I heard, he was still living in the Austin area near family. He, too, was named Citizen of the Year.

I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to share your stories. Stories about adopted children who have found their birth siblings, a surrogate mother, a mother giving birth to twin boys not once but twice, a woman serving in the WAC during WWII or sisters who delivered their babies on the same day in the same hospital.

I have written stories about adversity, from being a cancer survivor and living with Parkinson’s and other diseases. I have written life stories about pastors and priests, missionaries, authors, artists, musicians, singers, physicians, servicemen and women, an astronaut, actress, pharmacists, Cowboy Hall of Fame recipients, entrepreneurs, centenarians and more.

There are still countless stories still to be told, so I leave that in the hands of my replacement as I retire from my post as Lifestyle editor. 

It has been a pleasure working here and getting to know the people in this community.

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