Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012: Remembering those who are no longer with us

As the end of each year approaches, The Turner Report looks back at some of those who have passed away during the past 12 months. This year's list includes a few unusual departures, but ones which meant a lot to me and hopefully, to some of you who are reading these words.


(March 23 Turner Report)

At the end of October, I made my final stop at the old South Middle School, the place where I spent the most enjoyable six years of my teaching career. It was difficult to see a shattered shell of what had once been a vibrant center for learning.

Now, even the shell is gone and I had to stop by and see it for myself. The only thing that remains of the South Middle School I knew are the steps that I walked on everyday to get into the building and the signs around the parking lot.

The school, the marquee, the other evidence that once thousands of students made the transition from elementary to middle to high school at that spot, is all gone, thanks to the May 22 tornado and the necessary removal of the damaged building.


(From the February 16 Turner Report)

A bit of sad news for those of us in Joplin who have patronized the business for the past 18 years, but Hastings announced yesterday it would close its Joplin store March 21.

Over the years, Hastings has developed a reputation as a store which worked well with local authors and I have enjoyed holding numerous signings for my books there over the years.

Unfortunately, it continues a nationwide trend of bookstores closing.

(Photo: Michelle Nickolaisen, Ron Graber, Julie Johnston, and me at the first signing for Devil's Messenger)


In the movies, the house on the hill is always the place where horrible things happen.

Sometimes, it’s the home of the town boss or the mad scientist who is conducting unspeakable experiments.

Those are other houses, other hills. In Granby, that house on the hill was a place of warmth. That was where Max Carter brought family and friends together to share fun, friendship- and above all else- fried fish.

“Uncle Max had the best family fish fries,” Amber Swartz Gallemore remembered, “Games, laughs, and great food.”

When word spread earlier this week that Max Carter had died at age 82, the memories started flowing. It seems like Max has always been a part of life in Granby and Newton County. It is hard to walk the streets of Granby without coming across something positive that he did for the community, whether it be during his time as mayor or during his long service to the Lions Club or any of the other organizations that were lucky enough to have him as a member.

Before Max Carter made it a priority, there were no senior citizen apartments in Granby. He also provided the Lions Club with a home and a place to serve the community. Pat Styron recalls that during the 1980s, when Max was president of the Lions Club, “he was instrumental in getting Dr. Preston Chester to donate the old Post Office building at 213 N. Main St. to the club. The club still owns the building and has had it rented out ever since we have had it. The revenue from the rent helps the club do the many projects that we do. Even though they are both gone on, that incident will keep on giving to our town,”

Max Carter spent much of his life giving back to the community, whether it was through his three terms as mayor, his single terms on the Granby City Council and the Newton County Commission or the many years he spent on the Granby Senior Citizens Housing Board of Directors, including seven as its president.

Just one paragraph of Max’s obituary would be a lifetime for others. In addition to the accomplishments already mentioned, he served two years as chairman of the Economic Security Executive Committee, two terms as vice president of Local 65313 Communications Workers of America, past president of Heart of the Ozarks Telephone Pioneers of America, past-Master of Granby Lodge 514 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons and past patron of the Order of the Eastern Star. And don’t forget his status as a charter member, not only of the Granby Lions Club, but also of the Granby Historical Society.

He was also involved in Newton County Republican politics, serving as a county committeeman for 22 years.
It was no wonder that Max rose to the top in everything he attempted. He was a people person long before that term was ever coined. He put the needs of others first and as many have noted, once he was introduced to someone, he never forgot that person’s name.

But that partial list (and yes, that was only a partial list) of accomplishments was never at the top of Max Carter’s priorities.

That place was always reserved for family, including his wife of nearly 64 years, Ruth, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The best times were not the meetings with “important” people or even the time he has honored as Granby’s Citizen of the Year.

For Max Carter, the best things in life were family and friends and gatherings at the house on the hill. Those days were filled with stories, fun, laughter and love.

That’s a legacy that’s hard to beat.


I first met Tracy Stark back in the early '80s when I was serving as master of ceremonies for a variety show at Triway Elementary in Stella. She was one of the judges and apparently liked my voice.

I was working at the Newton County News at that time and she was at a radio station in Southwest City. She tried to convince me that radio, not newspapers, should be my path for the future. I wasn't interested, but I appreciated the thought.

A couple of years later, when I was out of work and she was at WMBH in Joplin, she offered me a job as an all-night dj. Instead, I took an offer from Doug Davis to work at the Lamar Democrat.

When she later moved into the television world, I never received any more job offers from Tracy. Apparently, she recognized a face that was made for radio.

Though Tracy Stark had been ill in recent months, the death of the former KODE anchor earlier this week at age 56 still came as a shock to her friends and former colleagues.

Many of the women who are currently working at Joplin area radio and television stations don't know her name, but Tracy Stark blazed the path for all of them. "I worked with her at WMBH/Z-103 in the early 80s," Rebecca Williams said. "She was among those that paved the way for women in media today."

Tracy took an unusual path to local television, entering it after a career in radio and her first anchor job was a challenge. Russ Riesinger, news anchor at WJAV, Savannah, Ga., and former KODE sports anchor, recalls. "She took over for Diane Gonzales, who had replaced Lisa Richardson, so she had some big shoes to fill. What I remember the most is that some of the people in the newsroom (who had a whopping two years of experience in the business themselves) were skeptical about her ability as a journalist. She had no experience in television news, but had a name from doing a morning radio show (with Gary Bandy, I believe). Anyway, she did a great job making the transition from radio to news. She had a good personality that came across on the air and people liked her very well."

One of her competitors after she took the KODE job, former KSNF anchor and now candidate for Newton County Commissioner Jim Jackson was able to catch the best of Tracy Stark's work in radio and television.

"When it came to broadcasting," Jackson said, "Tracy was a natural. I had the pleasure of working with Tracy when she started her broadcasting career at KCTE radio in Southwest City, Missouri, in the late 1970s. Tracy was a communicator with a soft, soothing voice; everyone liked her on and off the air. Tracy got to live her dreams with a career and having a wonderful family. Everyone who knew her will certainly miss her."

Russ Riesinger's replacement at the KODE sports desk, Steve Edgerley, currently a teacher in Dayton, Ohio, also has fond memories of Tracy. Edgerley, who became known during his stay in Joplin for his work on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, remembers how much work Tracy put in for that good cause.

"For every minute she spent on the telethon, she spent hours with kids with a muscle disease. She got me involved with MDA. I owe her and I will miss her giving spirit."

As much as her work in radio and television, Tracy Stark will be remembered for her sense of humor and for how much she cared for others, her former colleagues said.

"I got to KODE in '89 as a part-timer in the studio," former KODE news director and sports anchor Erik Schrader, now news director at WTNH in the New Haven/Hartford, Connecticut, market, said, "and Tracy treated us all like family. She never talked down to the part-timers and was pretty funny. She had a great ability to laugh at herself. I remember a couple of on-air bloopers that would have sent some anchors into a funk but she'd be there laughing as hard as anyone. When she got married, I shot the wedding, and I don't think it was long after that she said goodbye to television news. But whenever you ran into her, she'd have some funny story. Really caught me out of left field that she's gone."

"I remember going to Vegas with her for MDA meetings," Edgerley said. "I lost my wallet, so she loaned me money and we went gambling and had a blast. She was a giver. She gave to many, but none more than the children with muscular dystrophy. She had lifelong relationships with those kids and made a difference in their lives."


I have been trying to remember just how long ago it was that I last made my way to the home of Mr. Patrick.

I had not been there many times, but on this particular occasion, I was there because he had told my dad he had something for me. Despite the fact that his wife of 65 years, Helen, had died shortly before that, his house was still meticulously kept, a solitary outpost of civilization in a mostly backwoods area, just outside of Newtonia, about halfway between the city and the Civil War Cemetery.

Mr. Patrick was expecting me when I arrived and graciously asked for me to enter. It was the first time I had seen him in a few years, but he looked exactly the same as I remembered. We talked for a few moments, then he showed me the reason he had asked me to stop by.

"You are a newspaperman, I thought you might like this," he said, holding out a book containing old newspaper stories. He was right; I did like it and read it cover to cover when I returned to my apartment later that evening.

Though I had not seen Mr. Patrick for several years, since the days in the mid-70s when the Newtonia Community Center first opened and I served as master of ceremonies at the musicals held the first Saturday of each month. He was at each of those events, drinking coffee and eating a piece of whatever pie was for sale, watching his favorite performer.

Most of the entertainment was a combination of bluegrass, country, and gospel music, accompanied by fiddles, guitars, and the piano. He listened while Hattie Mae Johnson entertained with her monthly poem, but his favorite artist was the ragtime piano player, Mrs. Patrick, a woman who had both regal bearing and a skill at bringing back that musical style of yesteryear.

I did not see Mr. Patrick for years after that, but we did keep in touch because I was a newspaper editor and he was the last of a dying breed, a prolific, literate author of letters to the editor. I eagerly awaited each new letter. I didn't always agree with the thoughts he expressed, but I knew that well-reasoned letters (and his were on a wide variety of topics) were a rarity and were meant to be cherished.

Occasionally, he would send a month's worth of letters, to be run once a week when he was going to be busy or out of town. When his letters were absent for a few weeks, he would inevitably offer a handwritten apology. Though some who read his letters took him to be gruff and curmudgeonly, I always thought of him as being someone who was unfailingly polite (but who did not tolerate fools).

Hodgen O. Patrick died Monday at age 98, leaving a handwritten obituary to the local newspapers to be run word-for-word the way he wanted it. Whether that was a reaction to any hamhanded editors who dared touch a word on his letters, I don't know. I certainly never changed a word. It would never have occurred to me to do so.

Nearly four decades have passed since I saw Mr. Patrick on a regular basis. I can vividly picture him sitting in the back of the Community Center enjoying the show.

Hopefully, he is once again listening to ragtime music played by his favorite entertainer. They say the sound system is much better up there.

1 comment:

Rick Nichols said...

Great piece. I never worked there, of course, but it was sad to see South Middle School disappear from the landscape. I salvaged a couple of bricks from the site when I was picking up trash in the area on a hot Friday afternoon this past June. They just don't build 'em like that anymore.