I am not the type of person that can often be rendered speechless, but this one did it to me. The Tribune’s city news editor Chuck Smith passed away unexpectedly yesterday while mowing his lawn.
It is so hard to put into words what he has meant to me, the newspaper and this community over his lifetime and his 34 years with the Tribune.
Chuck came to the newspaper green, really green, barely out of the University of Kansas—it was his first “real” journalism job. But he wanted to come home. He wanted to come back to Great Bend, the community he has always loved and fortunately for us, he got that opportunity.
And then it went full circle—from a young inexperienced writer struggling to learn the ropes from “the legend” Bob Fairbanks, to a full-fledged information archive in his own right. Chuck was often modest, not giving himself credit even when he surpassed the accomplishments of many of his newsroom idols. Even as recently as this week he received the State Forester’s Award in Community Forestry. He was always well respected by his peers.
Chuck was a natural mentor, willing to share his life experiences and infinite wisdom. “There is no sense making the same mistakes I did,” he’d say. But even given his vast experiences, his was still willing to listen and consider new ideas.
Chuck was too young to be called an old-timer, but he was the epitome of the silver screen newspaper reporter, fedora and all. Agree with him or not, you always had to respect him.
Chuck will be sorely missed at the paper, in the community and in our hearts. I doubt he realized exactly what he meant to us. Chuck always told me, “You never know how people truly feel about you until you are gone—and then it’s too late.”
I encourage anyone who wants to say one last goodbye to write a final letter to the editor, to Chuck. Because, I am sure by now he’s is sitting with his feet up on his brand new recliner just waiting for the newspaper to be delivered.
Mary Hoisington is the publisher of the Great Bend Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.