Throughout my years in the newspaper industry, I have been blessed to work with some outstanding journalists.
Whether it be news or sports, writers or editors, I have benefitted from more than my fair share of talented people to work with. Heck, the offices of the Progress are filled with that type of people.
There have also been two individuals who I considered mentors. One, a rogue named Doyle Barlow, helped get me into the profession full time. The other, Marsha Miller, guided me into a transition from sports to news coverage.
I thought of Marsha as part news hen and part battle axe, both with loving affection. Growing up in Illinois and attending college in Wisconsin, she was destined for a career in journalism. I often told people when Marsha’s time came, she would be at her desk with her fingers on the keyboard. Not that it seemed likely. Marsha was also fond of telling people she had been around since the early stages of A.D. That is paraphrased in case you were wondering.
As best I can recall, Marsha worked at newspapers in Pauls Valley, Ada and Ardmore.
I met Marsha when I began working in Ardmore and we hit it off like peas and carrots. Words I use to describe her are credible, accurate, trustworthy, passionate, opinionated and stubborn. She was also loyal. Marsha was a news editor with the crime beat. She was fiercely protective of her law enforcement officers, many of which became her friends.
I also had the privilege of becoming her friend. Whenever she needed anything, I never hesitated and neither did she. That friendship was extended to my wife Bonne after we started dating. Over the years, those two were always texting and I probably didn’t want to know what the two of them were talking about.
Marsha and I worked together for five years and even quit smoking together. In 2016, I decided to leave Ardmore and head back to Baytown. I remember there was some sort of issue and I jokingly laughed and told Marsha, ‘not my problem anymore.’ The temperature went up and Marsha dog-cussed me like a sailor. Turns out, I was not only leaving for Baytown. I was leaving my newsroom partner in the process.
I vowed to myself that I would never lose touch.
Marsha retired a couple of years later and moved to Georgia to be closer to family and I wound up in Yukon.
My other mentor, Doyle, passed away in 2019. We also had a friendship that extended beyond the newsroom. He was the best man in my wedding, and we got along much like fire and gasoline.
That was not always a great thing, Lord knows.
Being a couple of renegades, you never know what might happen when left to our own devices. When one of us had an emergency, we would make a phone call and simply say, “Broken Arrow.”
Saturday afternoon, I got Marsha’s version of a broken arrow. While I was covering an event, her daughter Jamie called and told me Marsha needed to talk to me. As it turned out, her health had taken a turn for the worse. In the next few minutes, I had the opportunity to tell her how much I loved her and how thankful I was for everything she had given me.
I will always be grateful for the chance to tell her goodbye.
Marsha, being the true, stubborn battle axe that she was, fought for another 24 hours before passing away peacefully.
It’s going to suck not being able to call Marsha and talk about life and news anymore. It’s not going to be the same for Bonne, not being able to share things on Pinterest. It definitely won’t be the same for the Bella dog, who benefitted from Marsha’s constant badgering for a pup cup.
Funny thing is, I have an even better idea of how Marsha felt in 2016 when I headed out to Baytown. She has left for a better place, but she has left her old newspaper partner behind in the process.
I can honestly say, life was much better for having known Marsha and will be lesser without her in it.
Michael Pineda is a staff writer for the Yukon Progress. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.