eraWhen you got up this morning,  you likely thought this was another normal, glorious Fall Friday. Not quite. The world is skipping a beat today and taking pregnant pause to acknowledge, marvel, and celebrate. Today, my good friend and colleague, Susan Campbell is retiring from the Independent Mail newspaper after more than 51 years of continuous service. No other employee has worked for EVERY publisher in the newspaper’s 117-year history. No one else has seen and lived such vast change all from a front row seat.

I arrived at the Anderson Independent-Mail in 1990, hired by second Publisher John Ginn. Before my first day of work I was given some advice, (but not by Ginn).  I was told that the first person I should meet was Mike Bevell as he would have a great impact on my work as benefits administrator. That was very true. Mike became my left arm.

I was also told to watch out for Susan Campbell because she would be watching me and we would never be friends. That advice was comical, at best. Susan and I became immediate friends and NEVER in my 20 years there ever had a cross word between us. She became my right arm. Through the years she didn’t stab me in the back – she HAD my back.  Besides, she didn’t have time to watch me. The daily traffic in and out of the publisher’s office was enough to make her head spin!

Proud to say, Susan and I (a/k/a Thelma and Louise thanks to former Publisher Fred Foster), have been friends for 26 years. We share a LOT of memories and stories. My favorite is the time Susan flew with me to the Harte-Hanks corporate office in San Antonio. After I was promoted to human resources, I attended the annual Harte-Hanks HR Conferences. Susan had been an employee for 30 years and had never been to the corporate office.  Back in the day, there was a really great deal with the airlines known as Penny Flights. You could fly and take a friend for a penny!  BOOM!  Thelma and Louise were off and headed to Texas!

iguanaWhile I was in meetings, Susan was out seeing the sites of Texas, which may or may not have included the brewery where Shiner Bock beer is produced. We had so much fun on River Walk, buying cheap clothes and silver jewelry during San Antonio’s back to school sales. We ended our excursions by drinking margaritas at The Naked Iguana. Too much fun!

We also had dinner at The Old San Francisco Steak House – in the Swing Room to be specific. In ‘those days’ swinging meant swinging – on a swing. The cocktail waitresses swung back and forth across the bar above diners until they were high enough to kick a bell at the ceiling. If YOU got on the swing, you got a certificate!swing

After my conference was over, we rented a car and drove to Corpus Christi to visit our former VP/Finance Darrell Coleman. Darrell had just left the Independent Mail to become Publisher of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. He THOUGHT he had gotten rid of us. Here come Thelma and Louise tearing up his driveway! Too much fun! Before we left, Darrell made sure we’d seen lots of local (naked) color at Padre Island and filled ourselves with shrimp and margaritas at Snoppy’s Pier. Good ole Darrell!

img_1796We laughed so hard on that trip that once or twice our drinks came out our noses. Susan got to see the corporate staff in person. They and the HR folks all loved Susan and BEGGED me bring her to the next conference.  The airlines never offered Penny Flights again but it sure was fun while it lasted.

Given I was a one-person HR department with as many as 225 employees, I don’t know what I would have done without Susan. For me, Susan Campbell is an institution, the last link to our local newspaper’s history. She has always been the go-to source for the “Do you remember” or the “who was that employee who” and most importantly “This person wants to return to work here. Should we hire ‘um back?” questions. She was also the glue that held me together when the company was bought and sold, publishers changed, mergers merged, and through those dreadful, heartbreaking years of downsizing.

I counseled many an employee on their way out the newspaper’s front door and into this thing called retirement. Of all of them, this transition may be the greatest for Susan.  The newspaper has been her life for over half a century. Most marriages don’t make it that long. As a human resource professional I appreciate her contributions – it is quite rare for an employee to stay in one place for an entire career. That is an era also now over.

As a friend I am excited to celebrate this day and upcoming season with Susan and to thank her for all she has done for me personally and professionally. I’ve reminded her, as I did my other departing employees once upon a time:  Retirement is reWIREment.aloe

When you die, you cross over to Heaven where there is an incredible mass of folks waiting up there to welcome you home. There is much celebration while those we have left behind mourn our crossing. Such is the case with your retirement, Susan.

You are getting ready to join a cadre of distinguished former newspaper employees. Those you leave behind will be reminded of your unique value to our community and its history and they will miss you. We, however are here on the other side, just waiting for the celebration to begin. We never thought it would happen.

Come on over!


~ From the desk of Becky Morlok ~

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