Hum·ble

1. having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance.

William Oscar Mardis was the Humble Reporter -- and that appellation fit him better than a mere title of editor.

"Humble" described Bill's personality. It described his very essence -- not only as a reporter, but as a human being.

He acted downright embarrassed in 2013, when a mural was painted on the side of the Commonwealth Journal building featuring THE two local journalism icons -- George Joplin III and, of course, Bill Mardis.

"Jop deserves to be up there," Bill told me at the time. "I don't need to be."

Then he added with a sheepish grin, "Do you think it even looks like me?"

Believe me, Bill deserved to be up there with Jop. Those two men set the bar high for Pulaski County journalists. Simply put, they're my heroes.

They left a legacy we strive to live up to every day at the CJ -- and we often fall short. It's hard for a current Major Leaguer to hold a candle to Babe Ruth. You get the idea.

It goes without saying Bill touched us all here at the CJ. His passion for community journalism was unparalleled -- and, for me, it was contagious. I listened to him -- even when he chewed me out -- and I learned from him. I learned from him when I was a young sports editor and I learned from him as he grew older and a little more mellow.

"I'm so sweet now it almost makes me sick," Bill said recently.

A mentorship evolved into a great friendship when we started coming in at 5 a.m., together back in the early '90s to begin our day. We sat in his office, then on the second floor, and talked daily -- about the news, of course, and about life in general.

Bill came from nothing and was proud of it. He wore a suit and tie every day because that symbolized something he strived to become as a youngster, who simply didn't have much.

"I didn't know how poor we were," he would often say.

Bill Mardis was much more than the heart and soul of this publication -- his essence is woven into the very fabric of Pulaski County.

Bill wasn't just a part of the Commonwealth Journal -- he WAS the Commonwealth Journal.

"You wouldn't believe how many people think I own the newspaper," he would joke. "That's what happens when your name is in the paper all the time I guess."

Bill wasn't from around these parts -- he grew up in rural Taylor County -- but he always cherished the friendships he had here in Somerset.

"I love these people," he would say of Pulaski countians. "They've always been good to me."

The loss our community suffered this week, quite frankly, is immeasurable.

I've lost a friend and a mentor who I grew to love. The journalists whose lives he touched through the years as they passed through the CJ would likely tell you the same thing, I'm sure.

His beloved wife, Linda, and their sons, Mike and Doug, lost a devoted husband and father. God bless them for sharing Bill with us through the years.

And all of us have lost a friend.

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