The text came in, and I grinned, as they say, from ear to ear.
KP was hanging it up from the old paragraph factory.
My great pal, partner in words and ideas at the big daily and golf and good times in the world had made it to the good and just and deserved see-ya.
His choice. He told me the final date. Later, he told me the day and place chosen by work mates for the retirement celebration.
They selected a new joint in an old building. Shaughnessy’s Irish Pub has settled into a space in the refurbished Hotel Syracuse, a landmark taken over after years of neglect, much cherished for its past century of glory and looked to as an anchor and engine for good things along this stretch between Warren and Salina streets and shooting off in all directions.
KP and I arrived simultaneously, a few minutes before the appointed time of 5 p.m. Yes, we make our deadlines.
I do believe the few days of retirement under his belt were agreeing with him.
This pub pays tribute to the Syracuse Nationals, this city’s NBA squad that won a world championship in the Onondaga War Memorial just two blocks up the street before moving to Philadelphia. Dolph Schayes was their main man. Later, his son, Danny, played very well for the Syracuse Orange and on in the NBA. History sure is something.
KP leaves a powerful legacy at this city’s news organization. John Lammers, a smart news man still making important decisions, told of how KP started in the Auburn bureau, moved downtown, held many important positions. And always kept a level head under pressure.
To that I can attest from those newsroom years, 1983 to 2013, in which I admired his work, big stories and small daily moves.
A newsroom is a place where characters gather daily to cover a city’s cast of wild people and thorny issues. At The Post-Standard, we had one columnist who laid down horizontally for his logo, which stripped the bottom of page two daily for Jim Ehmann’s collection of witty clips and such. He called the column Ehmann’s People, and that perfectly addressed his attitude as well. We had another columnist who lived freely among the worlds of bikers and politicians, mixing unabashedly and with a little love and many arrows to sling depending upon the day and subject. They named the little park across the street after Bob Haggart, and thereafter sat, sometimes side by side, business people, artists and winos.
Our KP was the cool head who was charged to find order in all of this.
Some of ours characters went off to cover stuff for bigger papers in bigger cities. Joey Sexton and Jim Naughton took on the Mets’ daily beat for the New York Times and New York Daily News. David Elfin tackled the Washington Redskins for the Washington Times. Fine editors such as Tom Baden and Mark Hass and Charlie Hickey moved on to steward other ink presses.
KP could have taken a similar leap. KP kept put.
There was the stretch when the big bosses sent him to Washington, D.C., as the bureau reporter covering Syracuse’s stake in capital politics. He met President Bill Clinton twice, once at the White House and once at the New York State Fair.
At the State Fair, he asked the President about his golf game.
“I asked ‘How’d you shoot today?’ He said, ‘I used to be able to play OK when I was tired, but this week I was in Africa and then South America…’ and I interjected ‘I never heard that one before!’ KP recalls. “He gave me a look that I translated into meaning ‘a—hole.’ “
At the White House, he asked Clinton about eating the trademark State Fair sausage sandwich.
“At the WH Christmas party I shook his hand and said ‘Mr. President, the most fun I had last year was watching you eat a sausage sandwich at the state fair,’ and he drawled, ‘Wadn’t that great? That was great.’ “
Jackie Domin, an editor who worked with KP these last five years making sure the pages of The Post-Standard were as good as they can be, worked minds for stories and drawers for photos to put together a gift page.
KP’s work, his ways, meant something to hundreds of co-workers and hundreds of thousands of readers, every day, for more than 40 years of working for the same masthead. They were better for his contribution to their daily life.
His friendship and personal time so closely parallels what he brought to those working ways.
One night on a double slide – that’s what our thirtysomething selves called our trip for a 2 a.m. breakfast after the slide to the bar after putting the paper to bed – a raucous group at a questionable joint on Salina Street erupted into a disagreement that spread from their nearby table and led to a roll of toilet paper cascading downward and landing on the very top of my head. KP looked me squarely in the eyes. He advised Beels to concentrate on his eggs and toast and ignore the silly actors.
Smart man. Good sense of humor. Reads those around him so well.
The post-paper slides were not always just fun, games and food.
The night before his interview for the position of Regional Editor, he and I ended up at his crooked second-floor flat on James Street so I could ask him practice questions that would likely come from the bosses the next day.
He nailed the rehearsal. Received the promotion, too.
That’s our Mark Libbon.
Fortunate are his family and friends who get more of his time now.