A curmudgeon calls it quits

Doug Showalter
Doug Showalter

While it has been a year since one of my columns last appeared in The Republic, I have just one more I want to share.

I am retiring from The Republic this week, a few months shy of 28 years after I started as a full-time employee here and close to 30 years after I started as a freelance writer covering Jackson County for this paper.

I did not want to leave without expressing my gratitude to the editors, publishers and especially you, the readers, who allowed me to converse with you every Sunday morning for more than two decades. I never once forgot what a privilege it was.

To be sure, writing 700 words a week about the aggravations of a kinky garden hose or sleep deprivation caused by an amorous cricket was never going to cure cancer. Neither was it ever my “paying” job at The Republic.

Since 1990, I have served as region reporter, region editor, features editor, city editor, special projects editor and, since 2001, special publications editor. For most of that time “columnist” wasn’t even part of my job description.

My amazing team and I are responsible for ensuring that a whole lot of AIM Media Indiana special publications go out the door on time and are filled with quality content of interest to our readers. It’s an important job, as the products we produce contribute significantly to the company’s bottom line.

But back in the early 1990s, when I was just a reporter covering Seymour, an editor named John Harmon let me try my hand at a humor column. I slowly improved, and it caught on. Eventually, I was asked to keep writing it, even as my “real” jobs changed over the years.

And I have to admit that the couple of hours I spent writing my column was always a favorite part of my week, though the hours spent thinking of an idea (sometimes in the middle of the night) were much less enjoyable.

I always tried to find humor in the trials and tribulations of my life. I wrote about my own life for a couple of reasons. First, it required no research time. But more important, I hoped readers would see their own lives reflected in mine.

The ultimate compliment was when a reader would approach me at a restaurant and say something like “Did you have a hidden camera in our house last week? Your column this Sunday sounded just like what goes on at our house.”

As I leave The Republic, I hope you’ve been informed and entertained by the many special publications my team and I created. And I hope you’ve enjoyed my columns — at least most of them. Some were truly forgettable.

But what I really want to do today is say thank you. No one does anything all by themselves. For my entire writing career at The Republic, I have been blessed with Kathy Smith, the greatest copy editor ever. She was never afraid to tell me when something didn’t work or just plain wasn’t funny.

There were others, like the late great Harry McCawley, who always encouraged me and set a high bar I knew I could never reach. The late Hellen Ochs, the longtime “Bird Lady” columnist for The Republic, took me under her wing, so to speak, and offered friendship, valuable advice and support.

And finally you, the readers. Some took the time to mail me a nice handwritten letter or send me an email. Others simply said, “Nice column Sunday,” while we stood in line at Wendy’s.

Thank you for helping me through a divorce, the loss of my beloved parents and my faithful canine companion, Augie.

The happy times have been plentiful, too. Thank you for helping me celebrate my joyous remarriage, my daughters’ marriages and the births of my five grandchildren, the oldest of whom is now a freshman in college.

I hope that in some small way over the years I could help you mourn and celebrate your own milestones.

I have no idea what the future holds, though I hope to keep writing in some form. But certainly not on deadline. For some reason I have grown to despise deadlines!

And not for the money. One does not enter the field of journalism to get rich. Anyone peeking at my 401(k) balance would quickly conclude my retirement years will not be spent sipping umbrella drinks at beach resorts.

But if I’ve learned anything sitting at this desk growing old (get up and move!), it is that dollar signs are a poor measure of a man’s true wealth. I know, spoken like a guy with no dollar signs, but it’s true. In many ways, I am rich beyond my wildest dreams.

So thank you all, mostly for letting a grown man act like a fool once a week. Writing my column has been the highlight of my professional life. And to quote my childhood friends, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy trails to you, until we meet again.”

Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or dshowalter@therepublic.com.