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Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, August 30, 2012

Editor Emeritus

Editor Emeritus's note: Bear with me one more week of columns about the newspaper transition.

The newspaper received this letter this week and I beg your indulgence to share it with readers.

Having relied on my family for column fodder all these years, I guess it's only right to give them some equal time. Thanks to Jim Uhlenkamp, who helped Cara become the writer she is, and maybe a gene or two from the family tree.

Dear Editor Emeritus,

Thank you.

We have been praying diligently over the last few months for you to be able to sell the newspaper. The time has finally come, and while I find myself deeply grateful for this day and the blessing it will be in your life, I also find myself with an extreme case of nostalgia.

For as long as I can remember, I have proudly identified myself as the daughter of a small town newspaper editor. I realize that much of who I am and the values I possess come from that identity. So, before you begin your adventure of retirement, I wanted to capture some of the greatest lessons I've learned by being the daughter of a small town newspaper editor:

It's all in a hard day's work.

There were nights when you'd be up until 3 or 4 in the morning covering some council meeting and then having to put the paper to bed. Yet, you always found time to tuck us into bed or sing us a good night song.

You never complained about the number of hours it takes to run a newspaper, or how little vacation time you get when you're in charge of putting a paper out every week.

You taught me what it means to work hard.

Support your local... Long before it was the trendy thing to do, you taught us to support those businesses in our local community. Whether shopping for school supplies, groceries, furniture, or cars, if it could be found in Ringgold county, we always shopped there forst.

I now fond myself supporting the businesses on our square in Independence, frequenting mom and pop shops and restaurants, and I still can't force myself to walk into "The Store That Shall Not Be Named," because I know somewhere in the world it's taking business away from small towns.

Whistle while you work.

Well, Grandpa Smith actually taught us that one, but you carried on the legacy -- not only by actually whistling, but by making the mundane fun. There are no such things as embarrassing moments, just great column ideas.

My first moments in this world were captured in "Thoughts and Other Things," and every embarrassing moment since then. Your columns have taught me how to laugh at myself and never take myself too seriously. Even on those days when nothing went right for you, you could always laugh and say, "At least I'll have a good column."

Only do what you would be proud of reading about on the front page of the newspaper. I remember hearing this advice as a little girl. I knew that was a real possibility for me. Grandma probably said it better when she said, "Remember who and whose you are," an adage you passed down to your children. I can't think of a better role model when it comes to living this out than you, Dad. You are who you say you are, in every moment of your life. You model characteristics of integrity, honesty, loyalty, and humility all the time, not just when others can see.

It's a family thing. While I know I did my fair share of whining when it came to stuffing newspapers or collating books, I am so grateful for the lesson you taught me that what one member of the family invests in, we all invest in. But you also demonstrated that by investing in those things that your children chose to do. You were at every single sporting event I participated in, even throughout college. You traveled to California for my volleyball, to Texas to greet Erin's first baby, and to Poland for Nathan's piano. Your children have always known that whatever activities we choose to participate in, "it's a family thing" and our number one fan will always be there to cheer us on.

Do what's right, even when it's not popular. I'm sure many of your readers can identify a time when you've made them mad by something you've written in the paper. You covered the difficult stories and taken unpopular stances, but you always wrote what you felt was truth, and I don't think even your biggest critics can fault that.

As I write these lessons I've learned, I realize these aren't things I learned as the daughter of a small town newspaper editor; these are lessons I learned as your daughter, and those lessons will continue long after you stop chronicling our family's lives in "Thoughts and Other Things."

So thanks, dad.

Thanks for the dedication you have shown these last 30 some years to the Ringgold county.

Thanks for producing one of the best small town newspapers I have ever seen.

But thanks even more for being my dad.


Cara Smith

~ ~ ~ ~

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Letters to the Editor
Writer remembers former publisher

It seems like it was almost a lifetime ago when I wandered into a little office, if you can call it an office. It was more like a closet with a desk and a couple of chairs wedged into it. But then, at times it doesn't seem like it was such a long time ago.

I distinctly remember meeting the editor of Graceland University's "Tower" newspaper for the first time and shyly offering what few talents I thought I possessed. I really didn't have any experience since my high school was too small to have much more than a few lines in the local newspapers periodically. But the editor was kind and patient and was always quick to flash a smile, often accompanied with a soft chuckle.

Reporting campus life was fairly routine, almost mundane compared to what was happening on other college campuses across the nation at the time. We didn't have any sit-ins nor did we march in protest against the war. We never stormed the administration building.

During our time on campus, the most serious issue that arose was the "Bruce Jenner Sucks" notation appearing on the boards set up for Graffiti Week once. But then that was pre-1976 Olympics and no one knew what a Kardashian was.

It has been my privilege to know Alan Smith when he was starting out on his career as the editor of "The Tower." It has been my privilege to know Alan as he passes the torch toward the end of his career.

Through the years as the editor and publisher of the Record-News, Alan has literally touched our lives at least once a week. It has been his finger on the camera's shutter button. It has been his passion which pursued the stories and his fingers on the keyboard.

Sometimes the story was a joyful event, full of elation and celebration. Other times the story was full of tragedy and heartache. But then that's why this is called life. There must be rain to grow flowers. There must be debate and dispute in order to find a resolution and move forward.

Throughout the years, Alan captured life in its full circle as we lived it.

What Alan didn't mention in his column a couple of weeks ago was that some things have not changed at all.

Alan is still dogged in his passion to tell a story whether it be captured by written word or in a photograph.

Alan still has an easy smile, genune and sincere.

Alan still has a soft chuckle, almost musical in a way.

Alan not only told about life in southern Iowa over the past few decades. He embraced it head-on.

And we are richer because of that.

Sharon R. Becker, Osceola

  Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, November 01, 2012

A changing of the guard

Retiring editor-publisher/owner Alan Smith and new owner Tom Hawley greet visitors at an open house held recently in the Record-News office in honor or Smith's retirement. Smith joined the staff in April 1980 as news editor and became an ownership partner in 1981 prior to assuming full ownership in 1982.

  The Mount Ayr Chamber of Commerce holds a ribbon-cutting in the Record-News office to welcome new owner Tom Hawley.

Photographs courtsey of Mount Ayr Record-News

Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, October & November of 2012

To submit your Ringgold County Tales From The Front Porch,
contact Sharon R. Becker at
Please include the word "Ringgold" in the subject line. Thank you.

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