I’ve been blessed to have been influenced by some outstanding individuals during my career in journalism.
One of those individuals was Diane Makamson, who worked for The Bolivar Commercial in Cleveland for over 40 years, and was serving as the paper’s publisher when it was forced to close its doors last year after 104 years of operation.
I got the shocking news this morning that Diane passed away, and so many great memories came flooding in while I tried to process the fact that my old friend is gone.
Diane was the newspaper’s bookkeeper when I joined the staff as a rookie reporter, and she was already a guiding force for the paper.
Two things stand out to me that Diane helped me learn:
- You must work hard every day if you want to be successful, but there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t have fun while doing it.
- You cannot afford to sit on the sidelines when it comes to supporting your community. Your community is where you live and work, and if you want it to be the best you must give it your best.
The first of those things led to a wonderful working environment.
Working at a newspaper can be stressful. There are always deadlines looming, and you’re under pressure to get important information printed accurately in a short amount of time. It takes a lot of people working together, each of them with their own deadlines and tasks, to make it happen. As soon as you get one paper published, it’s time to get started on the next one. When you make mistakes, those mistakes are out there for thousands of people to see, and many of them can’t wait to tell you how dumb you are or suggest that you had some kind of sinister motive.
We always had fun at The Bolivar Commercial, and Diane was a big part of that. We were always joking and having fun while getting the job done. I can still hear her laugh in my mind. We did a lot of laughing in those days.
The staff was like a family, and I made some lifelong friendships that have endured even though I left Cleveland 15 years ago.
The second big thing that Diane helped me learn was how important it is to use whatever talents you have to try to improve your community. She had a hand in so many positive things in Cleveland. From Chamber events to charity functions or festivals, Diane was always busy supporting community events. She made sure that everyone else at the paper supported many of those things too. One of the first dates with my future wife was at the Junior Auxiliary charity ball that Diane insisted we attend. I remember I had to go buy a suit for the event.
Diane’s dedication to the community made an impression on me as a young man beginning my career, and I’ve tried to do my best to follow that example.
We stayed in touch over the years and tried to share ideas and learning experiences. When the Bolivar Commercial switched to mail delivery, Diane and Coretta Bell came to Yazoo to take a look at how our newspaper does it. It made me feel good to have some knowledge worth sharing with someone who was usually sharing it with me.
I remember that it felt like a part of me had died when I heard The Bolivar Commercial was closing last year. It really hit me hard when I got a package from Diane in the mail that had my old journalism writing awards that had been hanging on the wall at the BC for years. Over time I realized it was the people I worked with inside that building that really gave it such a special place in my heart.
Diane Makamson was one of those people, and I’ll always cherish the memories of the times we spent together.
Her last text to me was one of encouragement. She said that she was proud of what my wife Jamie and I have accomplished since the days when we both started our careers working with her.
“You and Jamie keep pushing,” was the last line of her message.
Diane, I promise you that we will.