"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead … either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing." - Benjamin Franklin.
It was an honor to work with the legendary Bill Mardis in the Commonwealth Journal's newsroom, but it was a greater honor to call the Humble Reporter my friend.
When I first learned that the former, longtime editor of the newspaper would be making a comeback as Editor Emeritus, I was a bit intimidated. As it turned out, the man who was once known as hard-nosed and maybe even a bit gruff actually turned out to be a kind gentleman who carried on delightful conversations and who showed us all what being a "humble reporter" truly meant.
He was old enough to be a grandfather to most of us who worked with him during his role as Editor Emeritus, but he could work circles around us on any given day, and his work ethic inspired us all to push a little harder to do our part. He even walked a greater distance from his vehicle to the office than most of us who were less than half his age. Maybe these things were part of his secret to longevity.
Mr. Mardis had a unique style of reporting that can only come from years of experience. Even with his advanced age, his attention to detail and vast vocabulary made him one of the most fine-tuned writers in the bunch. He could piece together an eloquent article, whether it be hard news or an entertaining feature, but he never bragged about his skills and wasn't too proud to ask a co-worker to read over his copy to check for errors and clarity. He dressed professionally and spoke professionally, setting a fine example for us younger reporters. On election nights, he worked well into the night along with the rest of us until our work was done. And while we young folks were using Google on our smart phones as a reference, he could be found thumbing through the large old dictionary beside his desk on an almost-daily basis.
His ramblings in his Humble Reporter pieces may have seemed like nonsense to many, but some might not know that he was actually mimicking a true Appalachian dialect, and he put a lot of effort in to making sure he typed his seemingly-misspelled words correctly.
His first-hand knowledge of the history of this county made him a pure joy to chat with. I will always wish I'd taken even more time to listen to his stories.
His many years of work with the local paper made him a household name, but he never showed an ounce of self-entitlement. When his face was immortalized in a large mural on the side of the newspaper building, he seemed not to comprehend what the fuss was all about. He very truly was - a Humble Reporter, and friends, I rekon we'ins h'ain't never gonna see nothin' lak him again.
Mr. Bill, you will truly never be forgotten.