I never forget the details of how the middle part of October unfolded in 2014.
My column was about Steve Goodwin, the long-time Advocate reporter who was being inducted into the media section of the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame that weekend.
It was my intention to attend the ceremonies in Westville that Saturday to congratulate him in person.
I never got there.
Jane, the love of my life for 48 years, had been battling cancer for about a year and was having a bad day at home. I knew I couldn’t leave her, even for a few hours. Three days later, she passed away too young at the age of 68.
It wasn’t the first time I experienced a personal conflict with an induction ceremony.
Nineteen years earlier, in 1995, I was being inducted into the Pictou County hall, also on an autumn Saturday afternoon.
On the same day, at exactly the same hour as the induction ceremony, a funeral service was being held just down the street in Stellarton — for Sterling Bain, my long-time pal and the best man at my wedding.
What was I to do? Fortunately, a couple of mutual friends said Sterling would have wanted me to attend the inductions. So I did.
Newspaper people routinely face conflicts in their jobs. Almost every day, it seems.
Ironically, Steve Goodwin and I have also had a lot of things in common during our lifetimes.
I was raised in New Glasgow. Years later — I won’t say how many — he was growing up in Amherst.
In the early 1950s, at the age of 12, I was publishing a weekly family newspaper. All those years later, also at the age of 12, Steve was writing his newspaper.
It was in our blood, I guarantee you.
Back in those long-ago days, when newspaper offices were so noisy with the sounds of typewriters and teletypes, it was an occupation that lured many of us into the printed word.
My sportswriting days began with the New Glasgow News during my high school and university years. Steve’s newspaper baptism in the county in the 1970s was also at the News.
I quickly developed a passion for sports. So did Steve. I loved writing all my life, sports or anything else. I discovered Steve’s interests were very similar.
The first time I met him was in the press box at the Halifax Metro Centre in the early ’70s. It was during a Nova Scotia Voyageurs hockey game.
As the years passed, he and I crossed paths many, many times, often at sports events in metro, often while covering news happenings in Pictou County, in Antigonish, in various other locations.
It didn’t take long to know Steve better.
He had the kind of work ethic I liked to see in media people. It was obvious he had a solid knowledge of the people and the news stories around him.
One thing that became clear to me as the years went by was the fact Steve developed a love for Pictou County and Pictonians, something that’s sure easy to understand.
Some weeks his byline appeared on almost every page in the Advocate. It was obvious he had few quiet moments on the job. His camera has been as busy as his computer. Alongside editor Jackie Jardine and reporter Heather Brimicombe, they turned out lots of copy, week after week.
So why am I writing about Steve at this time?
Because we’re living in the year 2020, the year in which an unprecedented world-wide virus called COVID-19 swept around the world and changed almost everything in its path.
Newspapers, like so many businesses and industries, had to either close down or make unwanted decisions that affected many, many people.
The Advocate did not escape.
Steve, who had switched from the News to the Pictou weekly years ago, was laid off, what must have been a terribly tough call for the folks upstairs.
The busy days ended, his bylines disappeared. It was temporary but — like everywhere — nobody knew how long such cutbacks would last.
Weeks became months as the pandemic stayed around.
Though I wasn’t told by anybody in Pictou, in the back of my mind I believed Steve would be back when conditions returned to normal.
It’s been a long wait for Steve, I’m sure, as it has been for millions of working folks north and south of the border.
It’s six months now and, without having conversation with him during that time, I’m certain he has missed being around the office, being busy covering sports, courts, accidents, whatever.
If you love your job — Steve and I both have — I’m sure it’s difficult being home, leaving your responsibilities to others.
It’s like the baseball player sitting in the dugout and not getting into the action. It’s like the football guys spending game days on the sidelines. You just want to get into the action.
Being a reporter or a columnist is very much the same. You want to be at the keyboard, pounding out your latest effort.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s in the blood.
A few weeks ago, as I turned to the Advocate’s editorial page, I was surprised to discover Steve’s photo missing from its regular location beside Jackie’s, Heather’s and those of other key personnel.
Had he decided to retire? Had he taken a position somewhere else? I wasn’t privy to his plans.
So I contacted Jackie and was relieved to learn that nothing had changed. Steve would be returning — when “normal” was normal again.
I was concerned because I believe very strongly that Steve Goodwin is a major asset to the Advocate, to its standing as the strongest media voice in the community.
No newspaper would want to lose a Steve Goodwin prematurely. He belongs out there in the trenches of Pictou County, doing what he does so well.