Writer’s Block: It’s time to retire

Today (Friday, Feb. 7) is my last day as a full-time employee of ABC Newspapers and ECM Publishers.

Peter Bodley
Peter Bodley

After close to 44 years with the ABC Newspapers and more than 51 years in the newspaper business, I have decided to retire.

Retirement was not a decision I took lightly, but as I approach my 70th birthday in June of this year, I decided it was time. I began thinking about it seriously last fall and over the Christmas holidays, I came to the conclusion that 2014 was the right time to do it.

Coming to work every morning has never got old. There has always been something different to do each day so there was never a dull moment, and the variety of stories that I have reported and written on a daily basis has made the job invigorating.

My career began in my native England, where I was hired by the West Essex Gazette, a weekly newspaper just west of London in the county of Essex, after completing high school in the summer of 1962. My love of sports, particularly soccer and cricket, piqued my interest in a journalism career. While that did not happen right away, I became sports editor after a couple of years and remained in that capacity until I moved on to the Oxford Mail, a six days a week evening newspaper in the university city. There, I solely worked in the sports department, copy editing the sports stories that appeared in the paper each day – there were several updates during the afternoon after the first edition came out at lunchtime – and also laying out the sports pages.

I was very grateful for the mentoring I received in those early days in my career at both the Gazette and Mail. My good fortune continued when I came to the United States in May 1970. I had no job, but had met the late Arch Pease, then owner and publisher of the ABC Newspapers, a year earlier when I was on a visit to Minnesota, and he told me to contact him when I came over permanently. A few days after I arrived, I called Arch and that morning, his sports editor and editor of the Coon Rapids Herald, the late Jack Blesi, had resigned to take a job with the Minnesota Twins. Arch asked me to come in for an interview and hired me on the spot without asking for references or to see clippings from my jobs in England. He took a big chance on me, for which I am eternally grateful.

I had much to learn about government in the U.S., especially at the county and city levels. One thing that was very different from local government in England is that here, city and county candidates run on a non-partisan basis. In England, candidates carry a partisan label at all levels of government. Those I met at the city and county levels here were very patient and understanding as I learned the ins and outs – while on the job. The same was true of sports. American football, as I knew it, was completely foreign to me, apart from a couple of University of Minnesota games and one Minnesota Vikings game on my first visit to the U.S. in 1965. But I learned a lot, especially from then-Anoka High School coach Stan Nelson and his Coon Rapids counterpart, Ron Scott (there were only two high schools in District 11 back in 1970), so that I was able to figure out what was going on in the high school games I covered and write a halfway cogent story on those games.

From day one, I have always received support and cooperation and been treated with friendliness and warmth from all those I have come in contact with wherever my work has taken me in the county and its cities. That has made my job a lot easier and very enjoyable, and I can’t thank the people that I have come into contact with through my job enough.

In writing stories, I have always endeavored to present both sides of an issue and to make sure that my personal views are neither obvious nor perceived. Indeed, my goal, especially in government and political stories, has been to ensure that no one could figure out my political persuasion, or whom I might support.

I have also been very fortunate that the people I have worked with at ABC Newspapers have not only been talented and very professional, but have given me all possible support as I have done my job. It is the brilliant staff here at ABC Newspapers that I will miss the most as I retire.

But I will not be completely retiring. I have been asked to freelance and will continue to provide stories to the ABC Newspapers, including coverage of the Anoka County Board and Coon Rapids City Council, plus other stories that I will be asked to contribute.