Neligh News and Leader

Our family said “toot-a-loo” to Sandi Clarkson, yesterday. It was her word for goodbye to us, every day.

She was a beautiful person.

We met Sandi on October 27, 2003. Dave and I had just purchased the Neligh News and Leader, Clearwater Record-Ewing News and Creighton News from Sid and Sharon Charf.

We hadn’t met the office employees until after the paper work was signed and when I walked in Monday morning as Sandi’s new boss, she was, to say the least, a bit taken aback.

She didn’t like change. At all. She woke every morning in her little house on K Street, had a smoke and came to the News office, never missing a beat or a day. She was the first one here in the morning, started the coffee pot, plugged in the printers and turned on the lights and computers. 

If someone came to work before her, which was very rarely the case, it threw off her routine for the entire day. 

She didn’t take a lunch break and the only times she stepped out of the shop was once in the morning and once in the afternoon to smoke one of those long, brown Virginia Slims cigarettes.

She and I were usually the last ones here, too.

Those early mornings and late nights led to a special bond with her. She talked of her failed marriage and her love of the newspaper industry. There was ink in her blood. She didn’t have a college education, but learned the trade from those around her.

Sandi came in on Saturdays if the Huskers weren’t on television and checked her email and sometimes, set type on her computer. If it was a week in which we were preparing for a special section or edition, she worked the entire weekend. 

Her long, skinny fingers with those arthritic joints could type on a keyboard quicker than the rest of us combined.

She was organized, fast and efficient, and we loved her. As an employee, you will find none better.

Our kids became her kids. Sometimes, she was more concerned about Issac, Katie and Hannah than we were. She loved to have them come to the office after school and knew when they were on the honor roll, won their wrestling match or became a national FCCLA officer. She was as proud as a peacock of those kids and kept track of them through their college and adult years, too.

Along with many life lessons, she taught me journalism, far more than what I have learned from a textbook.

She approved, set and designed the heading for this column, back in 2003, and cut out and saved each one I wrote, carefully placing them in a folder I still have.

She followed AP Style to the core, and as the world and journalism culture started relaxing standards somewhat, she said no. She was old school and rules were rules.

I still can’t write “over” instead of “more than.” (i.e., More than 50 people were in attendance.) Although the rule changed in 2014, “more than” was reserved for describing spatial relationships.

When a group gets together, they don’t “enjoy.” (i.e., The group enjoyed a lunch of liver and onions.) Because newspapers are based on fact, how are we to say everyone enjoys liver and onions? I, for one, don’t enjoy it at all.

Time is written as a.m. and p.m. and avoid redundancy such as 10 a.m. this morning.

People are buried in cemeteries, not at cemeteries and they die. How are we to know they “went to be with the Lord” or “passed away?” Passed means to move or cause to move. “Where did they move to,” she would ask.

Special days are Veterans Day, April Fool’s Day and daylight saving time in lowercase in all uses. Ask her why apostrophes and possessives are used in different manners and she would know the reason.

I have missed her tremendously since her retirement in 2013. She volunteered to continue writing as a contributor until 2015, when a needed technology update would have meant the purchase of a new home computer and software for her. She decided enough was enough. Change wasn’t for her this time.

Thanks for everything Sandi!

Toot-a-loo.

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