So long y’all, it’s been a wonderful 2 years

Published 12:48 am Sunday, September 18, 2016

On a picture perfect evening Sunday, Sept. 4, I attended my first-ever Kitty Strode Concert Series at Lykins Park as part of the Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival.

The country-music group Sundy Best was just about to wrap up an amazing set just after the sun went down and their closing song was their hit “Home.”

If you’re at all familiar with the lyrics, the chorus repeats “I wanna go home” about four times.

After I heard it about the second time, I immediately burst into tears.

That’s because home, northern Michigan, is exactly where I’ll be — hopefully — by the time y’all are reading this, which will be my final column here in the Sunday edition of the The Winchester Sun.

Some of you I know will be rejoicing, while I understand some may actually be sad to see me go.

This past Thursday was my last day as a photographer/staff writer at The Winchester Sun, and what a ride it’s been since I came on board just under two years ago.

I began writing this Sunday column about a year and a half ago when former editor David Stone asked our newsroom staff if anyone wanted to contribute a column for our Sunday edition, which had just recently moved from Saturday to Sunday.

Nobody really spoke up, so I decided to do it.

I’m extremely grateful I did. Each week, I’ve had the freedom to write about whatever has been on my mind. Some columns have been good, some have been therapeutic, some have been duds, but I’m most proud of one particular column I wrote relating to using a public restroom and the adventures within of automated toilets, faucets, soap dispensers, towel dispensers or machines.

I entered it in the Kentucky Press Association contest in 2015 and won first place for best column in Daily Class 1. That plaque I took down from my desk earlier this week, along with a Kentucky Colonel certificate I earned as being part of Leadership Winchester earlier this year.

I also packed up nearly 200 business cards from sources I’ve met, looked over thousands of archived photos that are stored on my computer and thumbed through dozens of old notebooks with notes dating back to my first assignment, a Lunch and Learn regarding how to motivate employees.

Graham Johns was my first interview on the job, and seeing him at the Chamber of Commerce Golf Scramble on Monday nearly brought me to tears, again.

Even though I was here just less than two years, the memories made and people I’ve met through this job have been beyond enjoyable, and I can’t thank this community, my coworkers and the many people who helped make Winchester home to my wife, Jennifer, and me.

When we both decided to take jobs at The Winchester Sun back in August 2014, I had no idea what to expect.

Actually, the original plan was for me was to be a photographer and to help then-sports editor Keith Taylor and Danville Advocate-Messenger sports writer Larry Vaught cover University of Kentucky sports.

The photography job I dove right into, but the UK portion I did not. While I did attend Big Blue Madness and was Keith’s photographer for a pair of SEC games at Rupp Arena, I never wrote a word about UK athletics I can recall.

And personally, I’m glad I didn’t. Instead, I wrote about people, events, places and things going on in Winchester and Clark County. I quickly discovered what made this community so great, and you all were so gracious in opening up your arms to me and made me feel right at home.

I’ve drank more Ale-8-One, gobbled down more beer cheese and pretty much kept the South Maple Street Speedway in business for the past two years, I worry most of my friends and family back in northern Michigan may not recognize me.

Home has just been calling both my wife and I ever since we moved away. I’d be lying to you if I told you it’s been easy being some 690 miles away from home, because it hasn’t.

Over the course of the past 23 months, Jennifer lost both her grandmothers and I lost my grandmother. Holidays were extremely difficult to schedule to see all our family and coordinate time off, my mother who suffered a brain aneurysm eight years ago, isn’t getting any younger nor is my poor father, who’s been her 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week caretaker who rarely gets a break.

He deserves some relief, and he and my mother deserve to see their youngest son, daughter-in-law and grand dog, Betty, which is one of several great gifts we’ll be taking back with us to Michigan.

There are so many people I need to thank I don’t know where to begin, but I can’t help but send a special thank you out to Deloris Segress, who I’ve gotten to know so well and would run into at a number of events across town.

Twice Deloris has brought in other newspapers to me from her and her husband Dale’s trip to Sturgis and on my most recent wedding anniversary dropped off a beautiful bouquet of flowers — lillies — for Jennifer and me.

She’s perhaps the most giving and genuine woman I’ve ever met.

My heart sunk when I heard of her daughter’s passing recently and when she dropped off her obituary, she still had that heartwarming smile which instantly lights up a room.

To my coworkers who’ve had to put up with me the past two years, thanks a ton. I know you all were pretty skeptical of me coming down to Winchester as the husband of an advertising director, but you accepted me and let me grow, make some mistakes and ultimately, become a better journalist.

I’m going to miss early morning talks with Fred Petke, making Whitney Leggett’s eyes roll with my offbeat humor and horrible jokes, and talking sports and just about anything under the sun with Casey Castle.

To Karen Combs, Terah Hatton, Lana Smith and Dianna Roe — the other ladies at the Sun — thanks for putting up with me as well and for making me laugh. Although we’ve gone through some extremely difficult times at work the past year or so, we’ve all managed to keep our wits about us. Well, for the most part, right?

The sun has set for me here at the Sun, and it’s on to another chapter.

Again, thank you to everyone in this great community for making me feel at home. I’ll forever cherish my time here and never forget y’all.

Contact Steve Foley at stevefoley8@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @SteveFoley8; on Facebook, Steven Patrick Foley or on Instagram, foleysteven.