Newspaperman mourns loss of ‘accidental mentor’
To the Editor:
I am saddened by the loss of Tom Sadler Sr., who I call my "accidental mentor."
Tom "accidently" hired me in August 1976 as associate editor of the Capac Journal, the companion newspaper to the Almont Times Herald.
The little he knew of me came from a few sample columns I had offered him for print in the Times Herald the year before. He must have read the columns because he rejected them. He gave me the stock answer, "Thanks for offering these, but they are not something we have a use for now."
Then on a Saturday night, while I was serving him at the "Round-up buffet" at the Chuck Wagon Restaurant (in Dryden), he asked if I was still interested in writing for his newspaper.
"If you are," he said, "come see me Monday morning. I might be able to use you at the Capac Journal."
The little I knew of Tom came from his regular patronage at the restaurant. The little I knew of Capac was based on frequent visits to Dutch's Tavern on the edge of town.
The only thing I knew less of than the Capac Journal was journalism. Fortunately that didn't stop me from showing up Monday morning.
Helen Stern brought me back to Tom's office and I announced to him that I had quit my (only) job at the restaurant and was ready to go to work at the Capac Journal.
Tom leaned back in his chair, pushed his glasses up over his forehead and gave out a chuckle.
Within a half hour he had collected my employment history (not much), family (wife and 2 kids and another on the way), and negotiated a weekly salary.
He gave me directions to the Capac Journal office and sent me on my way. "I'll be over right after lunch," he promised.
It was 6 months or so later, over a pitcher of beer at the bar next door to the Times Herald, that he told me why he didn't show up that day (or the next).
I hadn't planned on hiring you, he confessed, I was just thinking of giving you a few writing assignments. But when you said you had quit your job, I didn't have the heart to send you on your way.
"I spent a good part of the afternoon explaining to Nola why I had hired you when there were weeks when I barely could make payroll for my own family. But I'm glad I did," he added.
So am I. Tom became my mentor. He taught me the mechanical parts of putting a newspaper together and writing informative news stories.
By his own example, I learned from him to try to be fair and compassionate, to treat people with respect, to ask the hard questions, to let the truth rule and most of all to see the best in people and to find the humor in all things.
Fortunately we spoke on the phone just a few weeks ago. I don't recall any discussion of the trials and tribulations of the newspaper business. Mostly we laughed with recollections of the good times and friendship we enjoyed because of that misunderstanding 34 years ago.
Tom, dear friend and mentor, may you rest in peace.
December 15, 2010