Ten years ago this week, I closed the deal on my house here and on my dream of moving back to the Pacific Coast after receiving my Hearst Corp. severance package from 25 years as an assistant city editor, news and sports reporter through the final days of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Ocean Shores was the first beach that my family had visited in 1970 when we moved from another amazing peninsula in Pacific Grove, CA, to the Pacific Northwest. My graduating class at Lakes High School had partied at Ocean Shores the days after the ceremonies, and our church camp for teens was held each year in Copalis Beach. The first night of my honeymoon to my first marriage was at the Shilo Inn. We were regulars for years at the High Tide Resort. I always knew I was destined to live on the coast.
When I moved to Ocean Shores in 2009, it was in a time of economic turmoil as the recession hit vacation home and property sales hardest and many of the places I looked at had been on the market for a year or more, with foreclosures mounting weekly. I was happy just to settle in and be back where I truly felt at home — where you can hear, see and breathe the ocean night and day. As a child, I can remember waking up in mornings with the window open and hearing the barking of seals echoing from the coast.
I never expected in that first year that I would end up working in Ocean Shores, but fate seemed to have other plans for me back then.
In many ways, I owe it all to Doug Barker, the editor of The Daily World in Aberdeen, and KING-TV in Seattle. After a year of avoiding work, KING-TV offered me an enticing job as a morning producer/editor who would help set the stage for the breaking stories the station would cover throughout the day. I had performed sort of the opposite task at the Seattle P-I, where I was twice the night city editor responsible for all the breaking news that happened into the final hours.
Driving back from the job interview in Seattle, however, I stopped in to chat with Doug in Aberdeen, who at the time was looking for a reporter to fill a vacancy. My entire life has been based around newspapers, from delivering the San Francisco Chronicle and Monterey Herald as a boy, to editorial positions at Western Washington University, Ferndale, Skagit Valley, Yakima, Las Vegas and finally Seattle. Whatever it paid, the job made sense as long as I could simply write and report to help my newly adopted community. I was — and always will be — proud and humbled to have worked in Grays Harbor at a time of great transition for the area, for the people I have come to know who have always welcomed me into their lives and have enriched the journalism I have practiced.
When I took over the job as editor of the North Coast News in 2013, it was after recovering from heart bypass surgery. I welcomed the opportunity to cut down on my driving, to stay in Ocean Shores and fully concentrate on producing as much of a quality publication as I could put together in a week’s time. Before I put out my first edition, I asked longtime columnist/historian/author Gene Woodwick to meet me for breakfast at the Home Port, asking for advice on what makes Ocean Shores such a peculiar community.
Gene laughed with that knowing twinkle she always had in her eyes and gave me this advice I will never forget:
“Many people move to the beach because they find the coast to be a place for healing, they come to the beach to heal.” She paused with a more serious look. “For some, if they haven’t healed on their own, moving here just makes whatever afflicts them get even worse!”
Like those many folks and friends Gene was referring to, I came to the beach to heal too — from the end of a storied and vastly exciting career in the very imperfect yet entirely honorable profession that had helped raise my family and sustain my passion for clarity, truth and understanding. My healing came from being able to practice such a craft in so many small and meaningful ways in a place I now call home.
There are so many people here who have touched my life as editor of this publication that I dare not even try to mention all those who assisted me over the years, with the exception of these three: Arnold Samuels, who was like a father to me and who took so many wonderful photographs for the paper over his years; Trey Smith, who has saved me from embarrassment time and again as my secret proof reader and guardian of local facts, names and phrases; and Scott Johnston, who made the amazing transition from Grays Harbor Paper’s demise to KOSW to local correspondent for many stories and events I couldn’t cover and much more.
Finally, I have been honored to personally know those like Gene Woodwick who are with us now in spirit and memory, etched in North Coast News history. I first met the late City Councilman Bob Crumpacker when the two of us were the last players standing in a poker tournament at the Quinault Beach Resort & Casino. Rather than battling it out to the bitter end, Bob and I decided to split the pot 50-50, shake hands and enjoy our good fortune.
Wilma Spike comforted me and encouraged me to find a new dog after I covered one of her early Woof-a-Thons and wrote about how difficult it was to write about the event after losing the Babe I moved to the beach with to cancer. I spent one Pearl Harbor Day visiting the Grand Canal home of Navy survivor Leo Shumard, whose ashes were later scattered in the waters near where he was stationed aboard the USS Maryland when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Finally, there was Jeff Daniel, who would always call me to remind me that he was the top-selling real estate salesman on the beach, much less the entire Harbor any time I wrote about the local market. When I took over the North Coast News, he became perhaps my best source, resource, and always a friend. We shared the same passion for bands like the Drive By Truckers, the beach, for our homes here and our crossed paths in Tacoma, our families, our places in this community.
Reporting Jeff’s news obituary on deadline overnight that fateful Feb. 25 just two months ago was one of the hardest stories I’ve had to write in 43 years doing this sort of work. Jeff and I were to meet at “happy hour” that next day to talk about his various ideas for the city, and I got a phone reminder with his iconic photo on it after the paper was out. Jeff so wanted to see the north end of the Grand Canal with a boat/kayak dock, a park with picnic areas and a destination to showcase our fresh waterways. He envisioned a bike/walking trail around the dunes, along Ocean Shores Boulevard, down Marine View Drive, linking up with the paved trail on Pt. Brown.
I never had a chance to tell Jeff I planned on retiring, and I know he would have tried to talk me out of it, just as I had helped talk him into active participation in local government again, even when his plate was so full with business, racing, rocking, surfing, having the time of his life. So in the spirit of Jeff and his love of Ocean Shores, I intend to have the time of my life right here as well, right up until I take my last breath.
Thank you for reading along over the years, contributing to our community, supporting our ever-endangered practice of journalism, and, most importantly, helping enrich the legacy of our time and place.