People along the way have made for rewarding journey [Bits & Pieces]

After lengthy career with Columbia Flier/Howard County Times, columnist Stan Ber stepping away

I have had the distinct honor of working for two award-winning newspapers during my many years.

I started with the defunct Columbia Life in 1970 as its sports editor, and when that newspaper folded, I was asked to join the Columbia Flier staff in 1971. I agreed, but I told the Flier's incredibly talented editor Jean Moon that it was my intention to do it for only a couple of weeks until they found a replacement.

After all, I had no credentials, no sports experience, and I wasn't even the best writer in my household. All I had was the time and the energy.

When I look back at the more than four decades I spent covering Howard County sports, I still maintain that my plan was not to stay too long. Unfortunately, time moved swiftly with every passing year and there always seemed to be another event, another race, another major happening. The years just melted away.

I did stay too long, and now it's time to move on and make room for others.

I was lucky more than good. My wife Donna allowed me to run around the county days on end for these many years and she never complained, even though I disrupted her own plans on more than one occasion.

I also lucked out by working for Jean — the best mentor anybody could ask for. She supported me every step of the way and also provided some great input, including making sure the sports pages gave equal coverage to females.

Also, with inclusion in mind, I decided to give lots of press to younger athletes and to those with physical or mental challenges. We also took the approach that wins and losses were secondary to education, and I have constantly stressed the value of academics for our area's young athletes.

Other important things to me were recognizing those influential individuals who have passed away over the years and celebrating their contributions to our community, along with making sure I made myself personally available whenever I was invited to community events.

I also lucked out by working with several great sportswriters in Karen Brelsford and Carol Gralia. I am convinced that I would have lasted only a few weeks without their support and friendship.

I also strongly believe that our current sports editor and assistant sports editor, Brent Kennedy and Andrew Conrad, respectively, will maintain the highest standards that have made this newspaper one of the best community newspapers.

I would not have survived without the support of so many of my friends and colleagues in the sports community. I will not even attempt to name them for fear that I will leave someone's name out. But I can honestly state that this county has strong and dedicated leadership buoyed by a great volunteer force, which translates into an incredibly bright future.

I was not an innovator. I initiated only one project during these 40 years and that was the Bob Davidson Scholar Athlete Program that is being run magnificently by the Columbia Rotary Club. That program remains as my singular achievement.

I was more of a facilitator between members of the sports community and the newspaper than I was an initiator. I assisted in the start of the Columbia Invitational Soccer Tournament, along with one tennis tournament, and I played a role on several sports committees.

I have been witness to many achievements over the years and have seen this town grow by leaps and bounds. I have attended almost all the major sports events at one time or another and will miss it all. It is now time to pass the torch.

I wrote a column in 1993 that former County Executive Chuck Ecker apparently liked enough to hang on the wall of his office. I will leave repeating what I said in that column, "In this world, you have to laugh at yourself and sometimes at the doings of the world. But you have to laugh. Without laughter, there's not much."

With that I say goodbye, and thanks for all the good years.

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