People often reflect on their lives and who it was that made such a difference to them, made them better, helped make them who they are today. Very often it is a teacher, a camp counselor or a crazy aunt (I hope I’m that to some, even the honorary kind). It’s funny, but the two people who come to my mind both had something to do with the written word.
The first person who encouraged me to follow my passion was Ms. Chazen, my English teacher at La Cañada High. She assured me it was OK to embrace deep emotions, vivid imagination and a strong sense of adventure and write from that place. (Egads, the notebooks of bad poetry that came out of that!)
The other person to whom I shall be eternally grateful for guidance along that same path, for being my trusted guide, concerned friend and inspiration and motivator, would be my editor for the last 14 years, Bert Etling. Doggone it, I’m going to miss you!
His predecessor, Bill Morem, hired me to write a weekly column, seeing as I was submitting something every week anyway, regarding the goings-on at the Youth Center, of which I was director. “Wow, a real writing gig this is cool.”
Then we got a new editor. I wasn’t so sure what to think or do. Lo and behold, he let me think and do what I had been doing. That was Bert.
I think those may be his greatest gifts — listening and allowing — hearing what I was trying to get across and letting me voice those thoughts in print. I have been so truly honored by the opportunity. The deep emotions, imagination and willingness to step out there have only gotten richer over the years with life experience and practice. And he has encouraged me to share it all.
He has listened to the broken-heart stories of my private life, checked in regularly on the status of my boys or whoever else was on my marquee this week and how I was handling it all. A real friend. The ideal boss.
I know what this town is like. I know how the information/entertainment/recreation/school business is. It’s a hard beat. You can’t reach everyone, even though they expect you to, you can’t accommodate everyone and everything, and you just can’t please them all. You can do your best and that is the best you can do.
I believe Bert did more than that. Not just from my own selfish, personal perspective, but I believe he gave a voice to countless people and causes in this town. You may not have seen your picture or read your release in the week you hoped to but, more often than not, somehow the word got out there.
He made this a professional newspaper. I look at every paper in every small town I go to and I have never failed to be more proud of The Cambrian under Bert’s guidance. The news, the features, the photos, the geeks like me — it’s a better package than I think many of you realize. See for yourself next time you travel!!
For now, happy travels to you, my boss, my mentor, my friend, on this next adventure. I will truly miss you.