By Karen T. Braeckel

One meeting remains on my calendar.

One plane ticket rests in hand.

And considering I retired Dec. 31, it might amaze you that I’m filling this space one last time.

Actually I asked.

Although HSPA executive director Steve Key and I talked about my retirement for months, we never said anything publicly. (But I did not want to mimic radio broadcasters who host a show one day and disappear the next. I always wondered if they were plucked from the planet.)

I will work on a project or two on a consulting basis as we make this transition, so you can still reach me through my HSPA email.

Everyone should announce their retirement at some point – if only to receive the kind words from colleagues. (Don’t try this for an ego boost. You could get hungry.)

I sincerely thank you for the thoughtful emails. (No one who said they would miss me added “like the plague.”)

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This paragraph and the next will sound familiar to some of you, so please forgive.

But when I count my blessings in life, HSPA ranks right up there behind my family and church.

Through the years the many publishers, journalists and others I had the pleasure to work with seemed like family.

As I told the HSPA and Foundation boards last month, I grew up in an editor’s home and love the unique newspaper personalities. Not many people can say they enjoy their work, but I truly did – even after 16-plus years (and too many total birthdays).

I remember in my first year with the association, Craig Klugman of The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne) told me I needed thick skin for this job. I told him not to worry. My dad took care of that. If he ever told me I did something well, I knew it had to be good.

When I counted my years in the newspaper industry – not including those when I just listened to newsroom stories growing up, I arrived at 30-plus. How did that happen?

I spent 14-plus years with The Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis News, serving the last eight as the educational services manager in the community relations department. (The department changed names four times during my tenure. This one described it best.) We switched from typewriters to computers shortly after my arrival. Fax machines ruled. Work seemed fun.

Change took the industry by storm. The community relations department no longer existed at the newspapers, and I found myself in circulation.

Just about the time I got settled into my new quarters, David Stamps, HSPA’s former executive director, called me about the member services position. He gave me some time to deliberate with my family.

My dad died about three years earlier. I really missed him at that moment. One of my daughters asked, “What would Popaw say?”

I remembered how much time he dedicated to the statewide newspaper personnel committee recruiting journalism students for internships.

And then I thought of his work with APME. I told her I thought he would be OK with it.

Then I talked to many others and got no negative responses, so I took the plunge.

I am grateful for the years following that decision. I could not imagine the opportunities this change provided – including directing the HSPA Foundation and working with this great staff and all of you.

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This next chapter of my life holds uncharted territory.

I assure people that the death of my husband, John, in November did not factor into this decision. My children’s nagging, however, did.

The plane ticket in hand will take me to Miami for a few weeks to watch my grandsons play soccer for the first time in a couple years. They both compete on elite travel teams, and I missed a lot during John’s illness.

The two grandchildren in town keep me entertained with swim and cross country meets, band concerts and other events.

And my son reminded me I have not met my two granddogs in Coronado, California.

I also plan to do some volunteer work when the dust settles here and at home. (Don’t be surprised if I end up in a red jacket with IU Health on it – if this Boilermaker can adjust to the color).

And the last meeting?

Well, it goes full circle back to my beginnings. The Indiana NIE Advisory Board will set the guidelines for a wonderful bicentennial series you may run free of charge in 2016.

Look for more information in this edition of The Publisher and in your email soon.

Happy New Year to everyone! I will miss you!

– 30 –

Karen T. Braeckel worked for the Hoosier State Press Association since 1999.

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