Sherry Devlin put in her last day at the Missoulian yesterday, ending a remarkable 36-year run there as a reporter and editor.
Her farewell column, posted this morning, is as well-crafted, gracious and heartfelt as one would expect. Much of it is devoted to recounting some of the really important stories she and her colleagues worked on over the decades, reminding us how vital, how irreplaceable, newspapers are.
But my favorite part of the whole column was its shortest, simplest paragraph: “The work, and all the rigors it entails, has been a joy.”
What a tremendous privilege to be able to say such a thing—and in the case of Sherry to mean it absolutely—about such a long career.
I was familiar with her work but hardly knew Sherry when, about 15 years ago (she’d have taken the trouble to nail down the date, but I’m in a hurry this morning), we were chosen to be part of a 12-member group of writers and editors who went around the Lee Enterprises newspaper chain to lead seminars on writing, reporting and narrative storytelling.
Sherry, accompanied by her good friend and fellow reporter Ginny Merriam, proved to be not only a great writer and teacher, but a damned lot of fun, too. She was, to use that word again, a joy.
I particularly remember the package of stories she wrote in 2010, looking back at how the record forest fires of 1910 forever changed the way fires were fought and how national forests were managed. It ran to many thousands of words and was packed with meticulously researched details, but it was gripping from start to finish.
After reading the last installment of the series, I said to someone in the Gazette newsroom, “Well, there’s no point in entering any journalism contests this year. Nobody else in the state has written anything half that good.”
Here’s hoping, Sherry, that whatever lies ahead continues to bring you joy.