As you may have read yesterday, I had the honor of writing a story about News-Gazette photographer emeritus, Robert K. O'Daniell.
He retired from our newsroom at the end of 2012, after more than 43 years.
RK was one of the first News-Gazette staff members I ever met. He came to my parents' house in Paxton in 2003, after I wrote a story about a church trip for The News-Gazette's Spin Off page. (Remember Spin Off? A page by and about kids?) I was 17.
This was my first News-Gazette story, and here's the photo.
And about four years later, when I started working in The News-Gazette's newsroom, RK stopped me and said, "Hey, I took your picture once."
And from then on, he took many more. You could bet that if you were on assignment with RK, he'd be emailing you some photos of yourself he'd snapped along the way.
I'm certain he has photos somewhere of me sitting in the Piatt County Courthouse, covering a hearing regarding a proposed corn processing plant.
I happen to know that RK keeps these photos and brings them back out to embarrass various members of the newsroom. Just ask Executive Editor John Beck - RK sent one of him a few weeks ago when I started researching the story. With respect for John, I won't share that here.
Rob and I also hired him to take photos of our Christmas Eve 2010 wedding. I'm not a big wedding person, and I told RK, "The only thing I care about are the photos and that I'm married at the end of the day." No pressure, right? But I could not have been more pleased with the hundreds of images that resulted, and even better, we had an extra friend there to celebrate.
And then, two weeks ago, the night before his final photography shift, RK gathered some friends, many from the newsroom, at Dodds Park. He wanted to take photos of flaming lanterns (they're like hot air balloons) as the moon rose. It was overcast that night, so the moon part didn't pan out.
But the lanterns did. We grouped together to light them, then set them free. Fourteen rose against the gray sky until they were the tiniest specks, floating north.
This is my chance to personally thank RK, both for the wonderful wedding photos he took for my family, for documenting my work at The News-Gazette and for keeping the most unflattering photos of me to himself (at least, so far).
It has been really, really fun.