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Farewell to the Gazette readers

By: Dee-Ann Schwanke

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jun 14, 2014 06:00 am

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It had been a challenging fall in 2006, and our family was working hard at trying to make ends meet. After experiencing the generous gift of a food hamper, I wrote a letter to the editor, expressing my gratitude for the support, and urging others in the community to give to the St. Albert Food Bank that Christmas season. To protect my children from embarrassment, I asked that my name be withheld.

Shortly after it printed, I came home from work to a voicemail from Sue Gawlak, editor of the St. Albert Gazette. She had called to tell me that she appreciated my writing style, and asked if I would be interested in joining the roster of columnists for the paper. I was overwhelmed and grateful for the offer. My first column appeared in the Gazette on December 23, 2006. It has been an amazing eight-year run and now that our family is moving into Edmonton my role as columnist in this fine community paper has come to an end.

Writing an opinion column has been challenging for me. Sue gave me only a few instructions; make it opinionated, worth talking about, and punchy. This was hard since I don’t tend to be all that opinionated, certainly not as much as my columns might suggest. Actually I had always been scared of speaking up. I felt vulnerable and exposed when I told people what I thought. I felt far safer stepping back and observing rather than contributing. Sue gave me the opportunity to share my thoughts and to deliberately take some space in this world. And it has been a fantastic experience.

St. Albert is a close-knit, family oriented community, and our family has loved being a part of it. We are sad to leave. It has been a sincere privilege to know that my neighbours and friends were reading my submissions. Some even looked forward to them!

I have spoken about buses, birthday parties, politicians, terrorists, workforce shortages, and world hunger. I have given advice about raising children and leashing dogs, and I have shared my opinion about H1N1, street-side shrubs, abortion, loud motorcycles and Walmart. I was called naïve, thoughtful, mundane, funny, right-on, shortsighted, clever and crusty. And when my July 2011 column on diversity was trolled by white supremacists from the United States, my name was plastered across North America, I was interviewed by CBC television and I was sent threatening emails.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

I love the statement by playwright Tom Stoppard: “Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.”

I honoured the opportunity that Sue gave me eight years ago, and after she passed away in 2010, I cherished it all the more. My columns have been an honest and open glimpse into my own perspective on life here in St. Albert. Although my words may not have reached significant numbers, I hope they numbered among the significant.

Dee-Ann Schwanke is a masters student in international management.


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