Ferrell leaves big shoes to fill at Leader

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 3, 2002

I remember it as clearly as if it happened just yesterday — andthere are days I wish it were.

It is was some 42 years ago as I sat on Bobby Ferrell’s lap,drinking my grape pop, as he set type on one of the Linotypemachines in the back shop of the Leader Times. I was four or fiveyears old, but I distinctly remember the moment because the grapepop slipped out of my hands into a pail of coal oil that quicklyseeped into the bottle. When I tried to take another sip of thepop, Bobby quickly snatched it out of my hand.

That was the first time Bobby came to my rescue. He has had manymore opportunities since then.

The two of us have always had a special relationship. He kept acareful watch on me as I moved around the newspaper offices on mytricycle. In those days there was lots of machinery, lots of blackink and scraps of lead used in the process of printing a newspaper– lots of places for a youngster to get into trouble.

He made sure that did not happen.

He watched me grow up. Whenever I came to the newspaper officesI searched him out because of the big smile that was always on hisface. He was my buddy! As I got older and began working afterschool, it was Bobby who showed me what to do. It was Bobby whotaught me the production side as well as the people side of thebusiness. He also taught me the importance of communityjournalism.

Years later when I came back to the Daily Leader as the ManagingEditor, there was Bobby, with that ever present smile, welcomingme. Again he watched over me to keep me pointed in the rightdirection. He would subtly point out my typos, or point out someerror in a story. He would subtly suggest a story we might cover orask a few pointed questions to keep me on the right track in astory we were working on. Like that bottle of pop he grabbed out ofmy hand, he made sure this young managing editor did not get intotoo much trouble.

As my responsibilities grew and management of more of the staffcame under my direction, there was Bobby, keeping a watchful eye.Many a time as personnel issues came up in the building or aparticular news story was growing controversial, it was his advice,calm and reasonable comments that kept me on track.

His wisdom and experience and subtle nature opened my eyes tothe importance and responsibility of the business of communityjournalism. His dedication to putting out a quality newspaper wasingrained not only in me but in everyone in the building.

In the hundreds of awards this newspaper has received over theyears, his name is not engraved on them, but his fingerprints areon every single one. Not only me, but every new staff member — beit a reporter, an editor, a pressman or whatever position — hadthe watchful eye of Bobby making sure the best effort was being putforward.

Bobby understands the importance of a community newspaper. Heunderstands the vital role the local newspaper plays in helpinggrow a strong community. He may have spent his career in thephysical production of newspapers, but his sense of news and theproper way to report is as good or better than most editors.

This year marks his 45th year with the Leader and very sadlynext Wednesday marks his last day as he has decided to retire, do alittle fishing and enjoy his four grandchildren.

Friday afternoon we had a reception for him in our newsroom.There was lots of laughter, lots of wet eyes and some choked upcomments. Former employees and friends came to wish him their best,for each had been touched by Bobby’s guiding hand over theyears.

He may be putting a -30- to his newspaper career, but we knoweach day that Bobby’s going to be scouring the pages — checkingdatelines, reading headlines and checking the copy — to be sure weare keeping things up to the standards he set for so many years.And, it better be right!

Thanks Bobby. Thanks for caring and thanks for being a part ofthe Daily Leader family for all these years — and thanks for thewatchful eye.