Thursday, November 10, 2016

With the passing of retired BJ printer Hugh Downing Wednesday, November 9 in The Villages, Florida, I guess that leaves BJ Composing retiree Gina White and me as the last persons standing among the BJ Florida reunion bunch.

Dave White, former BJ Composing foreman who started the successful healthcare lawsuit against BJ management that restored coverage to retirement-day status for 45 printers and 5 Guild retirees, passed away December 3, 2012 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. He lived in Venice, Florida after spending decades in his Sarasota home.

When editors would complain in the Composing Room, Dave would say: “Here’s a dime; call someone who cares.” Every year that I visited Dave, I handed him a dime and said: “Here’s a dime; call someone who cares.” Dave would laugh. And he collected the dimes (about 9 of them, I think) and kept them on a shelf as a reminder of his BJ days. Well, Dave, I’m someone who still cares about BJ folks.

Gina White, Dave’s widow, is recovering from her recent triple bypass heart surgery.

Terry Dray, superb retired BJ printer, passed away October 25, 2009 in the Avon Park, Florida home he shared with his wife, Cecily. Terry played golf 9 times a week (twice on Saturdays and Sundays, once each with Cecily and once each with the guys) and was a whiz on the links.

Terry was the guy who helped saved my job at the BJ. When BJ honchos Bob Giles and Al Fitzpatrick "encouraged" me to leave the Beacon and I became the makeup man for the copy desk, Terry and fellow printer Red Reeves came to me and said simply, "We'll take care of you." And they did.

Whenever I was the makeup man for the Sunday BJ, the paper rarely went in late for the editions we put out on Saturday nights. When I was not the makeup man, the BJ often went in late. After a few years of that, Giles and Fitzpatrick decided that I had been "a round peg in a square hole" and my rehabilitation was considered complete. Every time I saw Terry, I told him: “I owe you.” I don’t forget those who help me when I need it the most.

Don Bandy, the BJ’s super rewrite man who made cub reporters look like experienced writers, passed away March 20, 2011 in Bradenton, Florida. His wife, Judy, predeceased him. With deadline fast approaching, Don was quiet and wrote concise, clear stories for those who phoned him.

Don Pack, retired BJ printer who cleaned the Sea Castle pool on Siesta Key when he wasn’t taking trips to South and Central America with his girlfriend, passed away February 17, 2015. He fell and his head struck the ship deck on a cruise to Mexico. He was put on life support and flown to Fort Lauderdale, where he died.

When my late wife Monnie Turkette Olesky or current significant other Paula Tucker, 1970s BJ State Desk reporter, were on Siesta Key (adjacent to Sarasota, Florida), we got together with Dave, Don and Don, Terry and Gina. And, also in The Villages, Florida, with Hugh and wife Sharon.

Paula and I had reunions several times with former BJ religion writer/reporter Pete Geiger in Florida, too. The last one was in Leesburg, Florida 10 days before Pete passed away. Pete was there with his wife, Sandy, and son, Bill Geiger, who lives in a suburb of Detroit.

Pete and Sandy lived in the Penney Farms, Florida Christian retirement community. Pete was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania.

Somewhere in Heaven, there’s a rowdy poker game and furious golf outings. St. Peter must be in, well, Heaven with this gang.

God, I’m going to miss the BJ Florida gang. At least, till we meet again in The Hereafter.

No comments: