Farewell Tom, enjoy your retirement

Published 4:39 pm Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Multiply 42 years times 52 weeks times five editions of the newspaper per week, and you have 10,920 sports pages in Tom Goetz’s career at the helm of The Daily Leader’s sports department. And that’s not counting the extra pages on Sundays.

Factor all those sports pages times the number of stories and photos he produced and handled each day, and you can begin to understand the tremendous effort and dedication Tom has given to his “calling” here at the newspaper. It’s obviously a career you have to love to spend that much time in.

“I grew up loving sports – I was a sports junkie,” Tom quickly replies when asked why he chose the work he’s been doing for more than four decades. Born in Manitowoc, Wis., Tom spent some of his growing up years in Milwaukee where “we had the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Braves.”

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His father, who was in the bakery business, moved the family to Glendora, Calif., where Tom attended first grade, and to a couple of towns in Texas, before moving back to Milwaukee. Tom and I have had many conversations about Wisconsin, which is where my own parents grew up and my older sisters were born.

At 19, Tom moved to Houston, Texas, to work with his father in the wholesale bakery business. While there, he made a new friend, Albert Fauver, who was to have a profound effect on Tom’s future – and the future of The Daily Leader, as it turned out.

Fauver, who is from Lincoln County, brought his new friend home one Christmas. “I fell in love with Mississippi – its blue sky and tall pine trees,” Tom said.

The rest, as they say, is history. Tom came to Lincoln County, where Fauver also played a role in introducing him to his future wife. “I met Laurie, who was living in Baton Rouge at the time, at Albert’s home,” Tom said.

Laurie and Tom settled in the West Lincoln area, where she grew up. In their 42 years together, they raised a son and a daughter and have been blessed with four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, with another one joining the family in September.

At a retirement reception Monday night for Tom, I learned from former Daily Leader publisher Bill Jacobs that Tom’s first job with the paper was not sports editor.

Tom had been working with the Hartley Gove Thermometer plant when there was a layoff. Out of work, he saw an ad in the paper for a circulation manager, interviewed with Bill’s father, Charles “Chuck” Jacobs, who was the publisher then, and was hired.

Larry Guest, the sports editor at the time, learned of Tom’s avid interest in sports, and asked him to try covering a ball game. Guest left Brookhaven to take a job with The Clarion-Ledger, and Tom inherited his job.

“Pat Jacobs (Bill’s mother and Charles’ wife) taught me how to take pictures,” Tom said of the early days on the job. “She had a darkroom in her house, and we’d drop the film in her mailbox early, and she’d bring a proof sheet by for me to pick the pictures for the sports page.”

Tom and I have both seen the technology of putting out a newspaper change dramatically over the years. Long gone are the darkrooms for photos and typesetting machines of his early years at The Daily Leader.

Digital cameras and computers have revolutionized the industry, but the solid writing and editing that Tom seemed to come by naturally remain the touchstones of good newspapering.

Bill Jacobs said Monday night that Tom is the longest serving sports editor in Mississippi. Today is his last day with The Daily Leader, and come Thursday, he won’t have to meet a daily deadline or get out a sports page.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know Tom in the two years I’ve been here at newspaper, and I’ll miss his gentle wisdom and dry wit, not to mention his longstanding knowledge of the local area. I’ll also miss his heartfelt, spirit-filled prayers at Daily Leader get-togethers. As Bill Jacobs mentioned Monday night, Tom has been the person we call on to offer thanks whenever we have a company meal.

But while those of us at the newspaper – and his readers – will miss him, Tom is looking forward to having more time to spend with Laurie and the rest of his family.

There will be more time for tending the garden, taking care of the horses, going fishing and hunting, and he’s thinking about taking up golf again. Bill Jacobs gave him a putter that is just aching to be tried out.

And he also plans to take in a few games – as a spectator from now on. No longer taking down stats and snapping photos, he’ll be able to sit back and watch the action from the stands.

“I’ll be able to holler for the home team,” he said with a grin.

Rachel Eide is editor/general manager of The Daily Leader. Contact her at rachel.eide@dailyleader.com.