Final column brings tears about leaving

Published 10:46 am Thursday, June 27, 2013

Column: Thanks for Listening, by Scott Schmeltzer

I promised myself I wouldn’t cry while writing this, but I am stopping to wipe away tears already, and I haven’t even finished the first sentence.

I guess that’s why I’ve been putting off writing this, even though the thoughts and words have been gathering up in my brain. I close the page; put it off for another hour, another day. I keep repeating the Dr. Seuss quote, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Smiling is easy. Smiling I can do.

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No one told me when I moved to Freeborn County 10 years ago that I would fall in love with the place. I met so many nice people. I gained familiarity and built up associations. In the years since, many of these first connections became trusted friends and many others helped me learn more about why Albert Lea and Freeborn County are such a special place.

You see, it is not the place. It’s the people. The folks of this area have courage. I have watched the courage show itself in many forms. Watching the survivors walk at the start of the Freeborn County Relay for Life and knowing the inner strength it takes to battle cancer. Each step, each stride, hand in hand. Angels all.

The people of this area have vigor. I listened and observed as a farmer, who just lost his home and his job in a devastating tornado, hugged his wife and thanked God that she didn’t get hurt.

The families of this area are resilient. In both of my examples, I watched as relatives and friends pitched in and rebuilt homes, farms and lives after twisters tried to shut them down. I witnessed as a terrible disease was battled and overcome through amazing will and the power of friendship.

This is my last column for the Albert Lea Tribune, and it was the hardest one to write. You want to say thanks to everyone who has helped you, but there’s never enough time to do it the right way. My fear is that I will leave somebody off and regret it forever. If you don’t see your name here, please forgive me. If you know me, if we have chuckled together or if you have emptied your heart out to tell me a story, believe me, I will never forget you.

I am lucky. I always said that I just want to be able to complete two things every day. I want to learn something new, and I want to laugh. My job here at the Tribune allowed for me to accomplish this.

The Albert Lea Tribune gave me something to care about and people to care about it with. Teammates became friends, and those friends became family. This Tribune family gave me love and support. They pushed me to be better. They demanded my best. This team gave me inspiration. The memories that I have of this team are endless. Watching Geri Murtaugh dancing on the top of her desk after the final Progress story each year and coming home from vacation to an amazing bobblehead likeness of myself accompanied by my own comic book of adventures that the team made certainly top the list.

I learned many life lessons from this amazing group. Advertising Director Crystal Miller showed me how to balance being an amazing parent with work. Crystal and her husband, Dave, are the greatest people you will ever know. Lisa Foley taught me that accountants could like beer and also be an absolute inspiration in always doing what is right. Lisa has the finest moral compass of anyone I have ever met. Clay Culbertson teaches all of us Tribbies every day to keep it classy, while Kathy Johnson, shows everyone that it is easy to run a marathon, teach three spinning YMCA classes and then come to work, and it should be everyone’s typical 24-hour day. Tim Engstrom taught me to like disc golf and folk rock. Circulation manager Melissa Goodwin taught me to support the Twins all year, and Rich Mirelli, our mailroom manager, made me believe that the more tattoos you have, the harder you work. Our press manager, Terry Thissen, taught me about patience and how to handle stress as he just handled any strenuous decision so well. My Saturdays will now be weird without Kelli Lageson and I laughing and exchanging sarcastic wit. The list of what this team is accomplished in is really just too long to mention so I will just say thank you so much to them and wrap up this wonderful package of amazing individuals with one final word, dedicated.

To our advertisers and readers during my time here, I thank you for allowing us to serve you, as you are the real reasons this team exists. To host conversation and dialogue on so many issues is a real treat each day. To see people express opinions and to offer solutions is what any media organization sets out to do, and I hope we did just that.

Since I started this farewell column with Dr. Seuss, it just seems fair to end it with Winnie the Pooh, who is quoted as saying, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” So hard, indeed.


Scott Schmeltzer is leaving next week to become the general manager of the Door County Advocate and other publications in and near Sturgeon Bay, Wis.