TERRA HAUTE, Indiana - A little over a week ago, a journalist friend of mine passed away, a guy who took a chance on me in the mid-1970s that led to my moving up the journalism food chain, leading to my teaching and most of what I call my professional career and success.
David Bennett was an incredibly talented journalist and writer. What Dave taught me was speed, accuracy and to never be afraid to ask questions. He had very high standards and a worth ethic that wore out other people just watching him.
But he knew how to relax, he loved nature, and always seemed a little lonely, too, in a way many men are. He certainly had lots of friends, but few close ones. The three years we worked together he and I were very close, though I always played the apprentice to his role of master.
When Dave was fired suddenly by publisher Jack Moorhead - he was the scapegoat, blamed for union organizing of which he was quite innocent - Dave encouraged me to hang in there and not quit. "Leave on your own terms," he said. "Always leave on your own terms."
Sage advice, which I have given to legions of young journalists - even my children - over the years.
We lost touch after he moved to Fresno, pursuing his master's degree. I stayed in the newspaper business for another couple of years, bailing myself to get a master's degree from Chico State, where I was welcomed by the faculty and even went to Spain to teach on the university's Fulbright money.
Every few years we would get in touch, promise to stay in touch, and promptly fall out of touch again. The connection we had, The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, was the bond that really kept us together.
Dave took that newspaper in 1976 from a backwater, typical small-town rag to as professional a publication as could be. We published some great stuff, won a lot of prizes and also had a helluva lot of fun doing it.
While I've had lots of successes since those days, I was stunned by the accomplisments listed in Dave's obituary in the Terra Haute newspaper.
He never stopped swinging, he never slowed down, even towards the end when he knew his health was failing.
Requiescat in pace (rest in peace) Dave Bennett. And good luck inside the pearly gates, making sure the Celestial Times is publishing heavenly stories, making deadline, and writing exposes to keep the devil where he belongs.