This column was supposed to be about David Wright, for the past year our assistant editor here at The Times-Gazette, and his announcement two weeks ago that he was moving on too see what other path he might find on life’s journey. David’s last day was Thursday.
Then on Wednesday, our sports editor, Ryan Applegate, walked into to my office to tell me he was leaving, too. He had an offer for a new job, but had to start this coming Monday if he wanted the job. His last day was Friday.
For a four-person newsroom, including myself, that will make things interesting here for a bit. But that’s now what this column is about.
It is about how fortunate I have been to work with these two young men.
Less than three years ago David was fresh off a 10-month stint as a missionary in China. The stories he can tell about living conditions there, and religious persecution, would, I hope, make anyone think twice before complaining about the great country in which we live.
After taking some time off after his China trip to spend time with family in distant places, David applied for a job at The Times-Gazette. The only job we had open at the time was a sports editor position — maybe the one topic in which David is not was versed — but he accepted the job anyway, and did an admirable job.
It was about two and a half years ago when he started working here.
In the time since, David transitioned to straight news, and as time passed I came to know him fairly well. It has been a pleasure.
Two or three times a day, sometimes more, David would show up at my office door, ask me how things were going, eventually find his was to a chair and lean it back on two legs, then we would proceed to chat. It usually started with talks about what we were going to fill a front page with that particular day, but inevitably — likely due to my propensity to tell stories — the conversation would drift to other areas.
I learned that David is cowboy at heart, writes songs and plays his own music, dabbles in other forms writing, and even shared a six-part story — “Long Ride From Split Rock” — with you, our readers. He has a great sense of adventure (ask him about blowing things up or scaling mountains of unimaginable heights), helped me with computers and other technical issues more times than I can count, is deeply religious, is an outstanding reporter with an uncanny ability to deal with anyone, needs little to make him happy, and I could go on, but you get the point.
The one thing I found even most admirable, though, is that he is just a simple, down-to-earth, good person.
Through those many chats we had, he somehow, without purposely doing so, taught me to be more open-minded and look at things from a less restrained point of view. It’s kind of hard to admit that a 23-year-old can have that kind of effect on a 58-year-old, but he did.
I will not forget that.
After David had served as sports editor for a few months, one of our reporters moved on and David stepped into her place.
That’s when Ryan Applegate, a U.S. Navy veteran, arrived on the scene as our sports editor.
Because Ryan worked mostly evenings and nights and was often on the road, I did not get to know him nearly as well. But I know this: not once did he hesitate to do what was asked of him, and he often worked more than he should have.
He never talked about it much, but I know Ryan had a lot to deal with during his time here outside of the work place. During his couple years here he and his wife had two children to go along with the two young ladies they were already raising in their home. I believe several other family members have lived with Ryan and his wife over that same time, and what better measure of a man is there than how well he takes of his family?
Through all that, and other issues that were no fault of his own, Ryan never missed an important assignment.
Like David, he had to endure many sports tales of long ago from a certain old sports writer. He would come into my office, too, many times when he arrived at work to let me know what was going on that particular day, then would apologize for taking up my time as got up to leave.
It was surprising that both of them left in the same week. But I know it was not planned that way, and I hold nothing against them.
One left to search for his next path in life. The other left to make a better life for his family. Who can blame them for that?
I am just thankful, and lucky, I got to be part of their lives for a little while.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.