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A final salute to all the ‘Good Ones’

The stories I’ve written for the Focus in the last year and a half will be forever filed away in a spot in my head marked, “Good Ones.”

The “Good Ones” do not earn that label because of anything I’ve done. But instead, they are good because the memory of the story itself, the one you and your neighbors have shared with me, is lodged into my heart.  The “Good Ones” have inspired, strengthened and taught me a thing or two about life. With you as my guide, I have explored the world of classic cars, rug weaving, labyrinths and decoy carving. I’ve tasted of other cultures through enjoyable and lengthy conversations with area foreign exchange students. I’ve learned the behind-the-scene details of a spectacular fireworks display. I have been inspired by people like Samantha Lange, who spent part of her last year in high school planning a benefit for her mother, who battled cancer. And again in a conversation not too long ago with local quadriplegic man, Bob Sim, who showed me the true power of positive thinking.  I was in awe when an entire fourth grade class in Perham quickly offered an entire slew of positive explanations about why their teacher (Lance Rach) was chosen as the district’s Teacher of the Year.  I’ve pulled on mud boots and splashed through rising waters with concerned homeowners, as the flood inched up the foundations. I’m left with a memory of a young girl’s smile, as she battled a rare tumor growing in her neck (Paige Johnson). And another memory, months later, when I was sitting across from devastated parents, swallowing my tears as they explained the fight for their four-year-old daughter’s life (Eva Hoaby).  It impresses me still, the way our local communities rally around their own, whether through attending benefits or giving time in various volunteer groups.  Then there were all those school and city meetings I’ve covered. I’ve come to respect all the work that goes on within boards and councils, in order to keep schools and cities on the right track.  I’ve visited the world beyond Perham in interviews with folks with local ties who now spend their days quite different from our own: designing costumes for movies like “The Hunger Games” (Anne Lee), for example, or writing plays for stages in New York City (Richard Maxwell).  There were plenty of photographs I’ve snapped over the last 18 months, many of which I consider “Good Ones.”  Last summer comes to mind, when I stood alongside the Perham track taking pictures while cancer survivors, fists pumping in the air, walked their first lap during the Relay for Life.  Or when I captured the expression of a child as his little wooden car crossed the finish line at a Boy Scout derby.  The well attended parades, turtle races and other year-round celebrations were all experienced from a new angle for me – from behind a camera.  Of course there are more “Good Ones” than I could ever mention here, but the time goes. And before I’m done with this column (and subsequently my time here at the Focus), I really should do what I set out to do in the first place, which is thank you.  So, thank you for helping me collect so many, many “Good Ones.” Even though I’m heading off to my next big adventure, they won’t be buried in the recycling bin of life.