Thursday, January 20, 2011
I’m blessed to have extended family in several cities. They come through various places I’ve worked.
Sunday, I drove to Red Bay, Ala., for a retirement reception. LaVale Mills, publisher of the weekly newspaper there, retired after a 25-year career in the newspaper business, 18 of those as publisher in Red Bay.
LaVale and I, both from Marion County, Ala., worked together for a few years at The Itawamba County Times in Fulton. She’d never been in the newspaper business before. I was just a couple of years out of college. Both of us learned pretty much everything we know about community newspapering from our mentor, Rubye Del Harden.
It was a big reunion Sunday with several members of my Times family – LaVale, Rubye Del, Lisa Gray, Ruth Howell, Joel Ewing, Sandra Newton.
We relived some of the best times ever in the community newspaper business. We had loads of fun, but most all, we put out a great newspaper. We had an outstanding team.
It was fitting, after last week’s seven inches, that we got off on the topic of snow. Lisa recalled sledding down the hill out back of The Times office and just spending the night during the winter weather.
“That wasn’t a big deal,” I said with a grin. “We often worked about all night anyway on deadline days.”
I recalled a big snow storm in Fulton, too, when I was out in my four-wheel drive picking up employees – particularly Rubye Del’s late mom, Miss Rubye, who was our chief proofreader.
I spent four years in Fulton and then went to Red Bay for one year in my first role as a publisher. When I left for Aberdeen, LaVale went to Red Bay and went to work doing what she does best – making friends with her big smile and great sense of humor and building community through the pages of a solid weekly newspaper. She was a tremendous fit for Red Bay. She poured herself into the town and the newspaper, which is what it takes to succeed in our business.
Perhaps her long-time boss, Rubye Del, said it best – “With old-fashioned values and hearty doses of good common sense, LaVale set the tone for the character and temperament of Red Bay.
“LaVale has a special way of ‘telling it like it is’ to folks – all types of folks – and having them sit up and take notice.”
She started her weekly column, “Sunny Side Up,” while at The Times and hasn’t missed a week since.
She is one of the most positive persons I’ve ever met – no matter the circumstance. She is a ray of sunshine to everyone she meets.
LaVale has written four books; she is starting on a fifth. An essay written about her father was published in Tim Russert’s book, “Wisdom of Our Fathers – Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons.” Her story was one of 151 essays selected from 60,00 entries.
And that’s just a few of her accomplishments.
But LaVale would not want me going on and on about herself. She would just prefer I tell you she’s a country girl from near Hamilton, Ala., who has done well.
And most all, she’s a good friend who taught me a lot about life and made me laugh.
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