The annual Mississippi Press Association Convention has long been a highlight of my summer.
I’ve missed maybe a couple the past 32 years.
The awards, for the newspaper staff members where I’ve worked and for me personally, have been plentiful.
But this year’s awards ceremony was the best ever – no doubt about it.
That’s because my good friend Ronnie Day, who passed away in January of this year, was the recipient of a first-place award. It wasn’t his first award but this one just meant more – to me personally, to The South Reporter staff and to Ronnie’s family.
We had talked for several weeks about how it would be great to win lots of awards but most of all we wanted Ronnie to win one. It would be a fitting tribute to a man who greatly impacted our lives for the better.
The newspaper won six, but Ronnie’s definitely meant the most.
Ronnie worked a full-time job, but after leaving that job, he could often be seen on the sideline shooting a football game or at courtside taking photos at a basketball game. Plus, he helped photograph many other things for the newspaper, like festivals and rodeos.
He was a big part of our newspaper family.
He’d often walk into the office on a Monday or Tuesday afternoon and brighten up everyone’s otherwise stressful day. He had a knack for boosting your spirits.
Ronnie and I took a lot of road trips together covering ball games, and there never was a dull moment.
He was one of my best friends ever. I think about him every day.
It was a tremendous honor to walk forward and accept his first-place award for Best Sports Action Photo Saturday afternoon in New Orleans, La. The convention was held there in conjunction with the Louisiana Press Association.
My daughter Erin and wife Pam were sitting next to me.
When I returned to the table after getting the award, Erin looked at me and said, “I’m so happy.”
Ronnie’s son Dillon, who is now assisting me at the newspaper with photos, also won a first-place award. It was his second in as many years.
Dillon sent me a text at 11:56 a.m. Saturday, about 20 minutes before the awards ceremony started.
“Any word on the awards?” he asked.
I had to put him off for a couple of hours.
He wasn’t anxiously awaiting word of an award for himself but one for his dad.
At 2:29 p.m., I sent him a text with a photo of the two first-place plaques.
Dillon’s quick response was – “That’s amazing!”
Dillon and his mother Tammy came by The South Reporter office Monday afternoon of this week to pick up Ronnie’s award.
We all wish Ronnie could have been with us to celebrate. But our brief get-together was truly a special moment for a special guy.
And no doubt my good friend Ronnie Day is smiling from above as The South Reporter family celebrates our accomplishments for year 2017 and seeks to continue a rich tradition of publishing the best community newspaper possible.