It’s rare that Bulletin reporter Steve Nash and I agree on anything — including that fluff on his face he calls a beard — but last week we decided that the farewell column published on Dec. 30 by former coworker Candace Cooksey Fulton should not be allowed to stand without response.
The fact that my opportunity to do so comes during the Brown County Youth Fair makes a tribute even more fitting. That’s because Candace made coverage of the Youth Fair her own special mission over the decade she worked for the Bulletin.
Newspapers were her calling, not just her job.
Candace specialized in features, the so-called “soft news” at the heart of community newspapers, but she also handled other assignments ably. When coworkers were away or additional staff was needed to cover stories, she jumped in with coverage that reflected the dedication she brought to the job. Whether it was police news, murder trials, or Friday night football rewrites, her work was dependably accurate, thorough, readable — and sometimes even finished before deadline.
Everyone who works in small city media needs multiple skills, but I especially appreciated one of Candace’s abilities that proved indispensable — copy editing. Mistakes that involve facts, spelling, and grammar will happen, but her watchful review prevented many of them from getting into print. Above all, she cared deeply about improving the quality of the newspaper.
During Youth Fair judging each year, Candace caught her second wind. She immersed herself into the events and brought back not only results and photos of top winners, but she also reported backstories on the young participants she met. As those youngsters went on to distinguish themselves in school and other endeavors as they grew older, she followed their achievements with a familial affection.
Her feature stories revealed a conviction that everyone has a story. Aside from her columns, it was there that her unerring moral compass was most evident. Plus, I’ve never worked with anyone who could write a eulogy as well as Candace. Her news obituaries for prominent residents were often quoted at their funerals.
I don’t want this to read like another obituary, but in a way it is. Candace is alive and well, but only those who devote their careers writing them can understand the loss felt when their columns die. Candace’s observations were published weekly for a combined 19 years in Brownwood and San Angelo newspapers.
Candace and I retired from the Bulletin within weeks of each other in 2012, and it was an emotional time because we had a news staff that functioned as a family. Every family has its ups and downs, but those experiences only brought us closer. Candace, along with Steve Nash and current editor Derrick Stuckly, were already here when I returned as the Bulletin’s editor in 2004.
When I retired, the staff produced an “extra” edition for me in which many colleagues offered comments which I still treasure. However, what Candace wrote is what I appreciated most. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Candace always seemed to out-write almost everyone.
So belatedly, I’m happy to have this opportunity to return the compliment. We don’t offer words of praise to each other often enough.
While readers will certainly miss her columns in the Bulletin, there’s talk that Candace is thinking about starting a blog. I can certainly believe it. After all, they say preachers and writers never totally retire.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.