If there’s anything more satisfying for a columnist than getting to write about interesting people, it’s hearing the reaction from interested readers.
I can tell you with pride and pleasure that feedback on the monthly “Defining Moments” column, which I author exclusively for After 50, has been exciting and encouraging. And when you’re in the business of publishing a monthly newspaper for seniors – and proud of it – there are few things more satisfying than learning your product is striking the right chord with the right audience.
West Seneca humor consultant Rita Ganim had the distinction of being the first subject of “Defining Moments,” back in April (the April Fools Day kick-off date was real serendipity, considering Rita is owner of Humor Happens Associates). She tells me she heard from a lot of people after the premier issue hit the streets.
Her aunt Jean, who lives at the Msgr. Geary Senior Center, was the first to call. “Oh Rita, I saw a big picture of you in that new senior newspaper, and I got all excited. I liked what they said about you. I’m going to send you two copies.” Rita also heard from another aunt and a couple of cousins from the East Lovejoy area, where she grew up. One cousin said there were so many things they simply never knew about her.
Then there was an aide to Rita’s recently deceased mother, who called to say she enjoyed the article and that it was well written.
Rita’s brother Dave, whom she describes as a “non-nonsense” retired police offer, told her the After 50 column was “about the best piece ever written about you!”
“And my godmother Evelyn called,” Rita remembers. “Honey,” she said, “that was a wonderful article you wrote.” I corrected her: “I did not write it, Aunt Evie – Paul Chimera wrote it.” Said my aunt: “Well, whatever! I enjoyed it anyway! I’m going to send it to my son Ron in California.” Turns out Rita actually sent it to Ron and his wife via email.
Rita Ganim is obviously popular, because there’s more. A tour director she’d met on vacation last year sent her a note in the mail that read, “Wow! You meet the most interesting people on a Know How Tour,” upon reading the After 50 column.
Rita also met a man at a political rally who called to say he had picked up a copy of the newspaper at Market in the Square and thought the writer “did a great job,” while a close friend, Suzie, remarked, “You done good, Rita!”
“Most recently,” Rita notes, “my next door neighbor rang my bell with a copy of the entire After 50 newspaper in her hand, all excited. She said, ‘I didn’t know I lived next door to a celebrity!’ She had been given the newspaper by her neighbor on the other side. Of course, I don’t know about this celebrity thing!”
In July we featured Gail St. Pierre-Chapman, Volunteer Coordinator at Erie County Medical Center. She and her husband Paul adopted a daughter 14 years ago. And Gail’s reaction to the column was nothing short of exuberant.
“I LOVE IT!!! You told our story so well, it made me want to cry – and I lived it!” wrote an appreciative and ecstatic Gail in an email to me. “I’m so surprised at how many people have read it. I received a lot of phone calls. All positive. Everyone loved the article. Thank you.”
I’m proud to note that Gail’s office at ECMC tells me they’re planning to present me with a special award for excellence in feature writing and community-minded journalism, as a result of my After 50 column. I’m honored by such a thoughtful gesture.
When my column about Frank Polkowski ran in May, the independent consultant – whose defining moment was when he was called upon to deliver the eulogy at the unexpected death of a best friend – didn’t have a chance to see the column for himself, before the phone began ringing. Friends and colleagues touched based after seeing his picture, and reading his poignant recollections, in “Defining Moments.”
I personally got a good number of phone calls and in-person comments as a result of my column on North Tonawanda musician, Pete Hankinson. This is a man who was essentially forced to quit high school early, due to poor attendance. He was told he’d never amount to a hill of beans, and then proceeded to amass a mountain of musical career credits, playing guitar for big name musicians and even landing a cameo appearance in the Robert Redford film, “The Natural.”
As a musician myself (I jam on drums with my guitarist brother and bass playing cousin), I related especially well to Pete’s early plight and subsequent road to stardom. And he’s also a business entrepreneur.
Other “Defining Moments” subjects will soon be appearing in the pages of After 50. If the response to those subjects is anywhere near the feedback we’ve enjoyed to date, then it would appear this newspaper is doing a pretty good job. That makes our readers happy, our advertisers happy, and us happy. And we’d call that a defining moment!
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