A lot of people around here — young, old and in-between — lost a great friend Monday afternoon when Joe Raney took his final painful breath.

I often referred to the retired fuel hauler as “The Candyman in Overalls,” because he was forever giving away candy to people he came across. “Santa in Overalls” would have been just as appropriate, as he bore a remarkable resemblance to the jolly ol’ fellow.

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Birthday girl Trish Berry and Joe Raney at the original site of Brenda's Cafe, one of Raney's many frequent candy drop locations.

Fair Play kids fortunate enough to ride his school bus were no doubt accustomed to the treats. As were fellow patrons of whatever eating establishment he was blessing with his appearance at any given time of day. He would go from table to table to load up old and new friends with the sweets, both edible and verbal.

As one friend in common opined after hearing that Joe was approaching death, his name will never be on the Vietnam Wall, but he is a safe bet to be among the many of that war’s time-lapsed casualties. At least he lived about five decades beyond to love and be loved, but at a physical and mental cost from which many of us were blessed to be spared, either by not having enlisted, failing a physical, possessing a college deferment or by the luck of the lottery.

May our memories of Joe live on as he rests in peace, no longer struggling for each breath.

• • •

Another anniversary of sorts is coming up for the Herald-Free Press, two of its sister newspapers and the printing company at the heart of present-day printing operations.

As of Friday, Feb. 1, it will have been 20 years since Sterling Media Ltd., sold all of its assets to Community Publishers Inc. out of Northwest Arkansas. Sixteen years and one month later, CPI sold to current ownership, Phillips Media Group LLC.

In many ways, it seems more like 20 days, or 20 months at most. But all it takes is for me to see how friends and co-workers have aged (along with my hidden Dorian Gray-like portrait) to know that it has been about 7,300 days.

Next week, assuming my memory holds up, we’ll take a look back together at that turn of events.

Spoiler alert: Despite the joy we get from looking back at the fun and glory of the Sterling era, the transition to deeper pockets and a broader base of experienced minds was a good thing for employees, readers and advertisers. Actually, it was good for anyone who cares that the newspaper is still coming off the presses week after week.

Dave Berry is the former BH-FP editor and publisher and now carries the fancy has-been label of “emeritus.” Please direct any complaints or other direct communication with him to dberry08@gmail.com. As always, the people who actually work here deserve to not be bothered by any of his weekly and weakly distractions or disruptions. 

(1) comment

frank berry

Excellent. Helps one remember we are all treading time.

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