JASNWS-12-31-21 FAREWELL PHOTO

Candy Neal

Change can be scary and intimidating.

It can also be rewarding.

Going into the unknown. Trying something new. Moving to an unfamilliar place. Talking to a stranger. All those things take you outside of your own comfort zone.

Outside of your comfort zone is the place where you really grow as a person. At least that’s true for me.

Almost 25 years ago, in March of 1997, I ventured outside of my comfort zone and made a huge life change. I left St. Louis and moved to Jasper, a place that was the total opposite of my hometown. The Dubois County Herald gave me that opportunity. And while I wasn’t completely sure about living in a smaller city, I did know that I wanted a change, I needed a change. I needed to prove to myself that I could be live on my own and be completely independent of my family.

I’ve reached that goal. But I’ve gotten so much more than that. I learned about a community that supports each other. The people of Dubois County are helpful. They care about each other. They can also be hard, holding each other to certain standards. That can be a good thing at times, and not so good at other times.

Above all, the people here are open and honest with you, if you’re open with them. I learned that over and over in my years at The Herald.

Early on in my time here, a couple allowed me to be in the delivery room for the birth of their daughter, their first child. The Lengachers were starting their family a little later in life, and allowed me to share their story. “Baby” Peyton is 23 now; they also have a 20-year-old son, Luke.

Later on, I would be around for the home birth of Courtney and Jose Ortega’s second daughter, Klarisa, for a 2017 story I wrote about midwives. I wasn’t in the room for that one. I was invited in; but I decided to wait in the living room and be entertained by their first child, Kyndle, who was 3 at the time.

There have been many fun and fascinating stories that I’ve had the privilege of writing over the last 24-plus years. I saw how gigantic haunted house monsters were made, went with a group on a multi-night mission trip to Appalachia and participated in a mission trip to Haiti with another group, followed local people as their attended Barak Obama’s first inauguration, made turnip kraut and homemade noodles, hung out with lots of Santa Clauses and Abraham Lincolns, watch an ice rink be built on an indoor performance stage, danced the night away at Kyana Woodstock, visited a religious commune, attended many festivals and marching band finals, checked out an igloo-shaped home, went with an eighth-grade class to Washington, D.C. post 9/11, attempted to dance the polka, talked to folks whose first language was German, spoke with Spanish-speaking residents about the great lengths they’ve gone through to become a part of this community…and that’s only a small part of the thousands of stories I’ve had the privilege to write.

The Herald allowed me to witness the joys of life. It also helped me to confront the reality and pain of death, another thing I needed to do for my personal growth.

I talked to the parents of Marine Lance Cpl. Alec Terwiske, who was killed in action on Labor Day 2012 while serving in Afghanistan. They were willing to open up to me and talk to me about the pain of their grief And then they allowed me to witness up close the process of burying their 21-year-old son. I will always appreciate and their openness and cherish the trust that they shared with me. It’s hard to let someone see you in a vulnerable state. And Sandy, Alec’s mom, has allowed me to stay in touch with her as she continues to navigate this unfortunate reality.

Subsequently, the parents of U.S. Marine Corps. Cpl. Eric Lueken have also allowed me to share with the world how life changes when you lose a military son. Eric was 23 when he was killed in action in Iraq on April 22, 2006.

I talked to Gordon St. Angelo, a Huntingburg native who was active in politics and instrumental in getting a pre-presidential John F. Kennedy to visit Dubois County while he ran for the nation’s highest office in 1960. A lot of our discussions in 2007 actually focused on St. Angelo’s beloved wife, Beatty, who had died a couple months prior to our talks. We stayed in touch for many years, until he passed away on Oct. 18, 2011 at age 84.

I got to know Dale teen Kelsey Bland as a wrote a September 2010 story about her and Gemma, the name she gave the heart that had been transplanted into her five years before. She was the neatest young lady. I learned a lot about living life to the fullest while you have a chance. Kelsey did that, up until March 13, 2011, when she died at age 19 waiting for a second heart transplant.

A big change for me personally was the sale of The Herald, which happened in August 2020. With that, the newspaper pages got bigger while the newspaper staff got smaller. I lost a lot of wonderful co-workers, who were laid off. And I had to face a lot of angry and upset people in our community, who let me know in no uncertain terms that they didn’t like the change. It was hard to listen to that almost every day and not cry, especially since I was helpless to do anything change things back to the way they were.

But that is our reality today. For the paper to survive, things had to change. The Rumbach family did what they could, but the reality was that the revenue that came in was not enough to sustain the operations as they were. If things hadn’t changed, the paper would’ve eventually folded and The Herald, in any form, would’ve ceased to exist. But with this change in ownership, the paper is still here. It may not be the same as it was, but it’s still here. There are many communities in this country that cannot say the same; they’ve lost their hometown newspaper.

Staying stagnant, staying exactly the same as always, is not a viable option for anything or anyone.

So I’m am about to make another big life change. This is my last day working as a Herald reporter. Come next week (which happens to be next month and next year), I will join Dubois County CARES as the DFC grant coordinator. The coalition supports a sustainable alcohol and drug-free culture for youth in Dubois County.

In my new role at Dubois County CARES, I will serve the community that has supported and cared for me for more than two decades. It’s my way of giving back to a community that has given so much to me — their time, their candidness, their trust.

Change can be scary and intimidating. But it’s also necessary. If you don’t make changes in your life, you won’t grow. If you don’t embrace change, you will never know what wonderful new things are out there.

If I hadn’t made that big change in 1997, I would not have gotten the chance to meet and know any of you here in Indiana.

So in my final story as a reporter, I want to say thank you.

Thank you for letting me into the intimate parts of your lives. It has been an honor to share your thoughts, your dreams and your stories with our community.