This time last year, I wrote my column about the 75th anniversary of the Galer family relocating to Hillsboro to become part of The Hillsboro Journal, which is now The Journal-News.
And as our family celebrates 76 years in the news business, we know that local news is still as important as ever. This past year, we have helped to cover an ongoing global pandemic and its effects on our small communities, an election which saw a surge in mail-in ballots due to said pandemic, a pause on high school sports and more.
We have tried our best to be there every step of the way, continuing to provide our readers with accurate, fair information about Montgomery County each issue.
I can't say that it's always an easy job, but as I reflect on my two decades in the newspaper business, I can say that a lot of times it's really fun.
As a photojournalism student at the University of Missouri, I was assigned to cover President George W. Bush visiting a school near St. Louis, and it was a special assignment. I wasn't part of the pool of photographers that got to cover the president reading to students, I only got to cover him making remarks from a podium. So even though the photos I made weren't that extraordinary, the experience certainly was. It was also the day I learned why photographers like cargo pants. In the age of film, I carefully tucked everything I needed in my camera bag and dressed in my nicest business suit for the occasion. And I was stopped and my bag was searched at every single checkpoint by the Secret Service, as it should be. But more seasoned photographers already knew that it was easier to get through security checkpoints without a bag. In the age of digital and phone photography, I imagine many times camera bags are obsolete anyways.
Being a student at Mizzou afforded me some fun privileges too, like being on the sidelines to shoot a Missouri versus Kansas men's basketball game at the Hearnes Center. I'll never remember who won that game, but sitting there on the sidelines to take in all the action was a lot of fun.
After I graduated from Mizzou, I spent almost two years working for a daily newspaper in southern Indiana, similar in size to Montgomery County. Even though my tenure there was short, I still got to go on some amazing assignments.
The community had some ties to the Kentucky Derby, and I had press credentials to go twice. Although I didn't have a hat to match my dress, I did try my first mint julep, and stood on the track as the horses ran by in the derby. Just being at Churchill Downs is an experience in itself, and I hope I get to go back and take my family as spectators one year.
I also got to shoot a game at Purdue University, do a photo story in a restored one-room school house and fly in an airplane with no doors with the US Army Golden Knights parachute team. I was a little nervous flying in the plane, but I knew I had to do my best because the TV reporter had already gotten sick on an earlier flight. One of the cool things about that assignment was that it inspired my dad to write a column about his own personal skydiving experiences. We even got permission to run one of my photos with it. I can't say that I'll ever jump out of a plane, but it was incredible to watch other people do it from the sky.
Since moving home and returning to The Journal-News, I've also had some fun assignments, covering UFC fighters Matt Hughes and Kyle Watson in Las Vegas, being on scene for a red carpet movie premier of The Longest Yard with Adam Sandler and Nelly in St. Louis and several state sports tournaments.
And while it's always fun to cover big things like that, I'm not kidding when I say that I almost always enjoy covering things in my community. From meeting new people to sharing great stories, I always tell people I have one of the best jobs in the world.
Most recently, I have covered two life-changing events in our communities. They happened right here in Montgomery County, and while I wasn't covering celebrities, I was covering everyday heroes in our lives.
In December, St. Francis Hospital invited us to be there when they administered the very first COVID vaccines in our county. As the nurse gave the shot, the few people in the auditorium burst into cheers, full of hope this would be the beginning of the end to the pandemic.
Then on Saturday, I walked up to Beckemeyer Elementary School in Hillsboro for another COVID vaccine clinic, this time for school district staff. I haven't had a chance to be in our schools as much this past year because of the pandemic, but the mood was so bright and cheerful. I asked first grade teacher Megan Holderread if I could take her photo getting her vaccine, and she readily agreed. She told me she wished everyone could see her smile under her mask because she was so happy.
I told my husband, Kyle, I didn't think that assignment would take me very long, but I underestimated stopping to visit with a variety of people that morning, everyone so excited for the opportunity to get the vaccine.
Throughout my career, I think these two assignments will always rank among some of my favorites because they offer such hope and encouragement for a community that continues to stick together to overcome obstacles.
I imagine that I won't be around to celebrate another 75 years of the Galer family in the newspaper industry, but I'll always be proud of our newspaper and the coverage we provide to Montgomery County readers each and every issue. And it will always be a privilege to bring you that news.