I spent five years working at Sun Newspapers as a general assignment reporter. It was both good and bad, as work experiences go. I learned a great many things about people, culture, writing, good government, bad government, the criminal justice system, firing weapons. But I also felt stifled there. It didn't really hit home until my basement flooded in 1997 and I was going through old clippings trying to find out what was salvageable. That's when I realized I was writing about the same core issues for five years. I was long gone by then and glad I made the leap when I did.
But I know others who have made the Sun experience their life. I heard from one today. Pete Gaughan (aka Petey, the Postman, Post) called me last November to tell me he was retiring and moving to Scottsdale, Ariz. Pete and I shared a computer for four of those five years and grew to know each other very well. He loved to tease me when I was pregnant, but would be the first to make a run to pick up my Szechwuan broccoli (which I absolutely CRAVED) from the Szechwuan House. To say he was rough around the edges would an understatement of the highest order.
He was colorful, both literally and figuratively. I suppose if I were his editor he would drive me nuts with his often-unpolished writing, unorthodox work habits and frequent absences. But there was something else that Petey possessed that I think often was overlooked by higher-ups at Sun. He had a genuine love for sports and for the kids and coaches he covered. And, when he was particularly revved about a subject, that love came through in his writing.
Of course, Pete wasn't always that engaged. In fact, he was known to apologize profusely to then-assistant editor Marsha Bragg for "power-slamming" cutlines and shorts. But for 25 years he showed up on Mondays (sports deadline), sometimes massively hungover, sometimes kicking creative booty, and did a job which mattered a great deal to those he covered.
Every year during the state track meet, he would jot down athlete's names from the program and pull together a clever column based on their names. (A particular noteworthy column was the year of the condiments.) And when Shaker Heights High School counted then-basketball star Malcolm Sims among its ranks, he put together a great feature (and even art directed photos) about the teammates behind Malcolm Sims.
Petey loves to party and that fact did not always sit well with his bosses. He was a free spirit and I suppose managing him would be akin to herding cats. But he was infinitely generous of spirit (and wallet) and loved to show people how to have fun.
Back in 1992 he invited me to spend a day as a sports reporter. We started with Thistledown's Media Day and proceeded from there. It was a great time. And it was when I met Junior O'Malley, the legend of the racetrack. I'm currently working on a piece about Thistledown and it was great to have known Junior as one of the track's legendary regulars. I reminded him of that excursion today and he said, "You know, that was a great day. You never knew if you were going to have a great day, you just had to go out and see."
Pete's true love is golf. And that's what he's doing these days, working for a fantasy golf club out in Scottsdale. He's organizing his first outing and already has the attention of The Golf Channel. I may have to tune in to see him. He won't be hard to spot — he's the guy in the flowered shirts and jams. Or wait, I think he left those behind in Cleveland. Good luck, Pete. Good to hear from ya.