Any man’s death diminishes me / Because I am involved in mankind. – John Donne, Meditation 17, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions
It’s heartbreaking for a small community such as Clear Creek to lose one of its larger-than-life members. Yet, it’s affirming to witness the outpouring of sentiment and support on the final leg of his/her life’s journey and afterwards.
I didn’t get to know Will Terry as well as I should have and am the less for it. It seems Will was around forever in the Clear Creek scene and as if everyone knew him by his first name, which became his persona. If you said or were told, “Will was…” or “Will did…” or “Will said…”, one knew to whom you were referring. Even in tiny Clear Creek, the feisty, irascible, little mouse that occasionally roars to remind the rest of the world—read, Colorado—we’re here so don’t dare ignore us, we have our giants, our one-named heroes who could easily be characters in a movie or TV production.
I first got to know Will through our gigs at the Courant and then through his monthly community newspaper. On that, I’ve been scratching my head for a better term for the Firestarter—tabloid, newsmagazine, journal—but none seems apropos. The Firestarter was Will’s personal alternate universe, a monthly in-print Facebook page filled with delicious servings from fun tidbits to serious essays, adorned with picturesque seasonal art that bespoke the talent and soul of the man behind the printing press.
Will saddled up and rode out on his final cattle drive on February 20th, leaving a hole in the heart of the Clear Creek community. Our mailboxes are now empty on the first day of the month. Hard to believe no Firestarter to flip through, to enjoy with a cup of black chai to go spelunking into the world of Will’s creative genius. We’re left forlorn but abundantly blessed and grateful for having had such a spirited dynamo to festoon our lives.
Were it possible to capture in words, to summarize in a few pithy sentences what is felt in our hearts. Instead, testimonials, anecdotes that tell the story of Will’s life, will do. So many with so many to share. It’s beautiful. It’s embracing. It’s Clear Creek. That was Will.
As our long-time chief editor, Doug Bell, wrote in his penultimate column last week, it’s a momentous time of transition for him as it is for the Courant, Courier, and the Clear Creek-Evergreen community. Doug is calling it good after forty-plus years in the newspaper business, 13 in his current role.
Having been a featured columnist for the Courant throughout Doug’s tenure, I can testify to the experience of working with him. Brilliant, insightful, clear-minded, and hard-nosed, but all the while, understanding, supportive, and teaching. We didn’t always agree, but no matter the point, Doug was everything one could expect of a professional and leader. I am a better writer for it.
Doug’s great achievement over this time has been to navigate the papers through the shoals of the ubiquitous challenges they face in this digital-age-media era during which great print papers, including our Rocky Mountain News, folded.
Exacerbating that is the proliferation of information options, including online versions of the National Enquirer, passing as news sources. It’s an era in which a sizeable percentage wants its “news” fed like its fast food: Now! It craves a steady diet of self-reinforcing helpings of “alternate facts” in which provable, verifiable facts are damned and falsehoods accepted as true. It’s an era in which the trust factor paramount for a news organ’s credibility is being decimated. Rather than assured “That’s the way it is” by a trusted Walter Cronkite, we’re now told, “Believe me!” Welcome to the mystifying, phantasmagoric realm in which illusion replaces cold, hard reality.
At a time when the First Amendment is under siege unlike before, the challenges of an editor can be daunting. Those challenges demand a resolute spirit. Doug has been that and more.
We shall be the less for his departure, but we’re so much the better for his presence.
Thanks, Doug, for a job more than well done. Live long and prosper.