On The Passing Of My First Editor

This week’s Courier Herald column:

In the fall of 1983 I began the only formal training I’ve had in the field of journalism.  It was then that I became a staff member of The Tigers’ Roar, the student newspaper of Fayette County High School. 

I was a freshman.  As was and is typical of fourteen year olds, I knew everything but I knew nothing. 

There were two people that went about trying to fix the latter problem, at least with respect to channeling teenage angst into news or opinion.  Patrick Sennett was our teacher and faculty advisor who also became my Economics teacher and also taught a civics class called “Current Events”.  I had him for at least one class each semester I was in high school.  I’d still love the opportunity to learn from him again. 

Frank Lynch, a senior my freshman year, was the paper’s editor for the 1983-1984 school year. Mr. Sennett passed away in December of 2013 at the age of 74.  Frank died last week at the too young age of 54.   

The two were great complements for a young boy that was still trying to figure it all out.  Mr. Sennett was a man among men.  He was a two tour Vietnam veteran that had also edited newspapers prior to his teaching career.  He had lived and had experience and experiences, but made it all relatable to his students.

Frank, as a senior, had already navigated three fourths of his high school career.  In addition to running our paper, he was quite committed to the school’s Select Chorus and occasionally dabbled in the goings on of the drama department. 

All three programs consistently won awards at the state level. I took it for granted at the time, thinking all high schools were probably like ours.  We were blessed with great faculty members who demanded excellence and treated those of in their programs as adults.  Mr. Sennett, specifically, gave us quite a bit of freedom to do our work.  The veteran in him would never let us forget that with freedom came responsibility.

Frank’s personality was the polar opposite of mine.  We also reflected the philosophical diversity of the area at the time.  Frank was Baptist.  I was Methodist.  We somehow managed to bridge these gaps.

We shared a deep sense of community as natives of a county that was rapidly moving from rural to suburban – bringing many new faces to our schools each year.  As we got older we both kept a special place in our hearts for the time and place where we grew up.  Frank ultimately settled in Savannah, but as the pastor giving his eulogy noted, you might not know it, as he was in church with his mom in Fayetteville about three times per month. 

My career as a columnist began somewhat by accident and even with some reluctance.  Frank knew even in high school he was going to be a journalist.  While in college he worked for This Week in Peachtree City, which was the same office where we would lay out our high school newspaper.  Having Frank around as I eventually moved up to be an editor of the paper was like having a Graduate Advisor on our staff.  He always remained cheerful and ready to help.

He went on to a full career with the AJC and the Savannah Morning News, and was most recently working as a freelance writer.  When we last met in person in Savannah, he was dabbling in occasional projects related to Georgia’s growing film industry.

We kept in touch mostly via Facebook, and I would get an occasional note with comments about my columns.  Our philosophical differences on the topics of the day had widened a bit, but he was always friendly, always encouraging.

The highest compliment I received was when Frank once shared something I wrote and compared me to several other accomplished writers from our home Fayette County.  I won’t pretend I’ve earned that praise, but I will say that even three decades later, it’s great to get positive feedback from your editor.

I’ll miss his notes.  I’ll miss his encouragement.  I’m thankful for the role model he was, in high school and after.  I’ll treasure the lessons.

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