For the better part of three decades, a singularly pleasant voice belonging to a singularly remarkable lady has graced tens of thousands of calls with a greeting that always was much more than just a courteous “hello.” To many if not most of those dialing our number — from subscribers changing their addresses to readers announcing births, deaths and everything in between — Jean Stuchlik was the newspaper office — the human face, voice and soul of the inanimate pile of newsprint they invited into their homes each week.
Next week, the person who so deftly has handled every inquiry imaginable since 1985 will finally write “ — 30 — ” on her career as receptionist, then circulation manager, and most recently business manager and member of the board of directors of Hoch Publishing Co. Well beyond even the most advanced of standard retirement ages — precisely how well beyond, we aren’t about to say — Jean will log her last legal notice, renew her last subscription and find her last obscure typewriter ribbon for our customers. Having gradually reduced her work week from four days to three and then two, she will at long last give up her dusty drives from Lost Springs to Marion and officially retire.
Two of our reporters had yet to be born — much less write their first news stories — when Jean, mother of five, grandmother of 31, and great-grandmother of one, answered her first call at the Marion County Record in 1985. In the years since, she has become the most valuable and trusted member of our team, not only mastering the mind-boggling intricacies of some of our most complicated dealings (handling lawyers, Postal Service rules, and convoluted computer systems designed to make them happy) but also providing sage counsel, leadership, and plain old-fashioned commonsense that all too often eluded others.
For some months now, Jean has been wanting to spend more time with Alex, her accordion-playing husband of 51 years, but she ended up outlasting more than one of the people hired with the idea of eventually assuming some of her duties. Now it will be Jane Johnson, Oliver Good, Joel Wright and the even longer-tenured Mel Honeyfield who will assume various parts of her duties, so irreplaceable has she proved that no one individual could ever step in for her.
A few tears were shed last month when she finally set a date for her last day of work. Our newspaper is and always has been a family in far more ways than just who owns stock in it. Amid a decade of seemingly constant change, Jean has been our virtual family’s one sure pillar of strength and stability, just as she has been for her own very large and wonderfully talented family in real life. As individuals, as a company and as a community, we owe her a debt we can never repay.
What more fitting way to honor her 29 years of service than by dropping by the Record office between 1 and 3 next Wednesday to pick up a paper, enjoy punch and cookies in her honor, and recount the many years of loyal dedication she has given both to the newspaper and to its customers. We can only hope and pray that all of us — as workers, community members and human beings — aspire to her example.
— ERIC MEYER