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Joseph Dill

I was an odd child. Well, truth be told, most people would probably say I am an odd adult. That’s OK. After all, variety IS the spice of life.

On some level, I think all children are odd in some manner. I’m not talking about Jeffrey Dahmer-animal torturing odd. It’s just that most children become fixated, from time to time, on things others barely notice or pay only cursory attention to.

Some choose sports. Others focus on music. There are rockhounds, dandelion lovers and butterfly chasers.

For me, it was type. Ink. Black letters on white paper.

My Grandpa Grimesey – my mother’s father – was somewhat of a Renaissance man. He ate wheat germ and sweetened it with honey instead of processed sugar – long before granola was packaged into tempting candy-bar packages. He had a piano on top of which there were a dozen or so other instruments – and he could pick up any one of them at random and play this tune or that. He researched his family history back to Ireland long before genealogy became popular.

At some point – probably more to occupy my somewhat hyperactive personality than to inspire me – Grandpa Grimesey sat me down with a typewriter and a few sheets of paper. It was love at first sight.

I spent hours, first typing nonsense as I found my way around the keys. Later, I typed up nonsense stories of gibberish reading them to older brothers and sisters who knew it was a farce, but tolerated my effort nonetheless.

I progressed on to poetry, and actually won some awards and had some of my work published in the St. Mary’s school newspaper. Eventually, I progressed to the point that I was “publishing” my own little newspaper.

By publishing, I mean typing two or three copies, as close as I could to identical. And by “my own,” I mean I would type stories verbatim out of the newspapers we had delivered – including adding headlines in big, bold letters.

I would produce enough copies for the whole neighborhood – I am the youngest of seven children and we had large, Catholic families next door on either side – and then “deliver” the latest news to everyone I could find.

Yes, I definitely was considered an odd child.

I remember one of my “EXTRAS” revolved around a huge sports story back in my native state of Wisconsin. The headline proudly proclaimed “Alcindor says it’s the Bucks” and the story told how Milwaukee’s franchise had outbid its ABA competitor for the rights to the center who eventually would become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – and arguably the greatest center in NBA history.

I spent all day typing up copy after copy of the Daily Joe-nal – lifted wholesale out of the Wisconsin State Journal, one of two newspapers delivered daily to our home. I proudly dispersed them throughout the neighborhood, never caring that anyone who cared about the news had already read about it – from the same source I was usurping.

Funny, but those days eventually passed, and I moved on to other pursuits – sports, girls, jobs, girls, cars, girls. But I don’t think it is a coincidence that I eventually went to college, majored in journalism and spent the next 10 years as a sports writer and, eventually sports editor. And I definitely think it is the ink in my veins, first transfused there by Grandpa Grimesey, that led me – or helped me -- continue to move up the journalistic ladder to become editor -- The Sentinel-Echo is my third opportunity to do so.

I often wish I had taken my grandfather’s cue and devoted myself more to music. But I definitely think he had a lot to do with planting the seed that eventually led to my life’s calling – newspapers.

How did my little newspaper printing business end? Well, one day my father found a bunch of my “papers” lying around the house. He decided that it was too expensive to have me “wasting” paper that way.

Publishers, they’re all the same.

Contact Joseph Dill at jdill@sentinel-echo.com.

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