ESCANABA - It is time to bid farewell today, a day filled with happiness and sadness.
Since sitting in this chair for the first time in September, 1970, life has been absolutely fabulous and beyond my wildest dreams. Serving as your sports editor all these years - other than a 1980-84 stretch as a sportswriter with the Green Bay Press-Gazette - has been an incredible joy ride.
As retirement arrives today and living with deadlines ends, it brings the joy of serving a wonderful readership of tremendous sports fans, athletes and coaches throughout the Upper Peninsula.
It is sad because something that has been such a huge part of my life is ending, although plans are in place to maintain a connection in a variety of ways once I complete a "bucket-list" vacation trip next month.
I feel extremely blessed to have been allowed the opportunity to deliver stories and photos of all our area athletes and teams. Their performances have been thrilling, from youth level activities through high school and college and even into the professional scene with people like Kevin Tapani, Steve Mariucci and Jerry Kramer.
Watching Tapani pitch in the 1991 World Series in Atlanta, after seeing him win a playoff game against Toronto in Minneapolis, provided the opportunity of a lifetime, covering a local athlete at the highest level. It just doesn't get any better than that.
It also provided the opportunity to get credentials to Super Bowl XXXI and XXXII.
In New Orleans that provided an exclusive photo of Desmond Howard holding the Lombardi Trophy in the Green Bay lockerroom.
It helped get a ticket from Dean Ellis to the 1987 NCAA championship basketball game in New Orleans when Keith Smart's jumper lifted Indiana past Syracuse. It also allowed a visit with Barry Copeland, a Syracuse assistant coach and former UW-Green Bay assistant, at the team hotel before the game.
The best experience of all came in 1997 when Sally, Brian and I attended the induction of the late Nellie Fox into baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Meeting his widow, two daughters and boyhood friends and fellow fans was the biggest thrill of a tremendous weekend that began by covering a state championship victory by the Escanaba Senior Little League girls softball team in Taylor.
While those forays into the national scene were special, the daily thrill of being around area teams, athletes and fans was the icing on the cake.
From regular season games across the sports spectrum to post-season events, it has been a tremendous privilege to report the history of the area and help fill scrapbooks of everyone's momentous efforts.
Relating the stories of so many events, from that memorable eight-overtime girls basketball junior varsity game in Gladstone to state championship teams with Escanaba football, Mid Pen and Carney-Nadeau girls basketball, North Central boys basketball and Gladstone softball, to Little League World Series trips to Portland, Ore. and Louisville, Ky. will stay with me forever.
After spending so much time with families throughout this wonderful area, it is time to hopefully start making up for that lost time with my family.
Be ready Sally because now you're stuck with me 24-7, and we can spend time with Brian, Debbie, Emma and Chloe when they have the time for us.
Thank you readers for opening the paper to the sports section every day and allowing me to be a part of your life for a few precious minutes.