Newspaper co-workers make impact on career, home life – Springfield News-Leader
On April 8, I enjoyed attending a dinner where former News-Leader newsman Mike OâBrien was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame.Â I remember when Mike was a young reporter at the paper, and I was quickly impressed with his ability to cover and write a news story.
Mikeâs induction reminded me of some of the other wonderful folks I worked with during my tenure with Springfield Newspapers.
There was Walter Brunkhorst, who was the editor of the morning Daily News. A towering gentleman with white hair, Brunkhorst was very friendly and knew a lot of history about Springfield.Â He and I worked nights together, which meant he was a âday sleeper.âÂ Years later, I found out that my wife Anneâs best childhood friend was Brunkhorstâs son, Walter, or âSookie.â They lived near each other on South Florence Avenue.Â Anne confessed that, as kids, she and Sookie often got into trouble for making too much noise playing together while Brunkhorst was trying to sleep.
George Olds was a managing editor during my early years at the paper. He would come over to write his Sunday column on Thursday nights when I was in the newsroom, rewriting stories from the afternoon Leader and Press for the Daily News.Â I could feel his eyes on me as I nervously worked at my desk. I tried to look busy and wondered whether he was watching me to be sure I was producing.
Dale Freeman from Mansfield began his career at the newspaper by taking over the night-side police reporter position from me.Â He later started a column called Ozarks Quotes.Â It contained segments from articles from various area newspapers.Â My wife enjoyed Daleâs book âHow to Talk Pure Ozark in One Easy Lesson.â Dale and I also coached a boys basketball team at the Boys Club for a few years, which included my son, John.Â The team was appropriately named the Newshawks.
Joe Clayton was a police reporter and feature writer for many years for the News-Leader. He also wrote a book titled âThe Surprising Ozarks.âÂ Joeâs daughter works for the veterinarian that cares for my beloved bulldog, Hedley.
I have written before about Betty Love, who I first heard of when I was taking mechanical drawing from Chester Erickson across the hall from an art class taught by Betty at Jarrett Junior High School.Â She was one of the photographers who rode with me in airplanes to take aerial photos. During one trip she dropped her telephoto lens from the plane.Â We were terrified that it might have hit someone, which could have been fatal.Â Fortunately, that didnât happen.
Doyle Hilton, a longtime night editor of the Daily News, hailed from Lebanon.Â Back in 1964, he worked with my wife, Anne, and Jean Heyle of Greene County Family Services to launch the Share Your ChristmasÂ program.Â Doyle would run stories featuring needy families in the area during the holidays.Â The annual charitable drive continues to this day.
And, of course, I was inspired to follow my newspaper career by my oldest sibling, Jim Billings, who was at the newspaper for quite some time.
Hank Billings is retired from the News-Leader and writes a weekly freelance column. To contact him, send an email to Cheryl Whitsitt at firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be forwarded to Hank.