My first phone message early yesterday was from Linda McKinney, daughter of our beloved Paul Bartley. She didn’t leave any specifics, just an urgent request to call her back.
But the news was already laced in the heavy sadness of her voice. Her dad, my friend, our smiling inspiration, had passed away just hours earlier. We have lost an institution, both in the community and at the Herald.
Paul has been part of the fabric of Bradenton since 1956, but everyone would bet that he was here his entire 84 years. The Herald paid tribute to Paul in today’s editions, with a front-page “Then & Now” centerpiece that captures what everyone feels in their hearts:
We’ve lost a friend.
For years since he “retired,” Paul’s daily routine included a trip through our newsroom. He’d stop in my office just to check on me – and then sneak a chocolate fix and warn me not to tell his better half, Ruth. He’d spend most of his time with his golfing buddy, Managing Editor Jim Smith, sharing some rather tall tales.
And then he’d schmooze with everyone in the newsroom, working his way back to His Desk in the photo department. That corner is really a shrine to Paul, capturing years of service and days gone by.
Paul’s newsroom tour always included a stop at the metro desk, where he’d check the obituaries going into the next day’s editions. He knew, better than any of us, who had helped shape this community, and he flagged many a deserving story on those pages.
“Just checking to make sure my obituary’s not here yet,” he always joked, his shoulders shaking with that famous chuckle.
Tomorrow, those pages will include Paul Bartley’s obituary. And our hearts are heavy with the thought he’s not around to check.
Just days ago, Paul gave me a huge hug when he learned I had lost my grandma. He kissed my cheek and told me how lucky my grandma was to be loved.
I’m the lucky one, to have met Paul Bartley and learn from him what “community” means. As I head to Texas this coming week to celebrate Grandma’s 95 years of living, I know Paul is still taking photos of every cherished moment.