It was sort of like a Brainerd Dispatch editors' alumni meeting a few weeks ago in Spearfish, S.D.
Two former editors, Les Sellnow and Floyd Emerson, met. Sellnow, who now lives in Riverton, Wyo., happened to be traveling through the Spearfish area.
"That's the first time I'd seen him in many years," Sellnow recalled Saturday about visiting Emerson in an assisted-living unit.
Emerson, editor of The Brainerd Dispatch from 1952-1974, died Friday at 91 at Lookout Memorial Hospital in Spearfish.
"What impressed me was the clarity of his mind," Sellnow said. "He was still writing a column. He had some written, he said, for when he died. He said they could keep publishing them for a while."
Emerson had been writing the "Now and Then" column for the Black Hills Pioneer in Spearfish. He asked the Pioneer to send the obituary he wrote about himself to Brainerd.
"I kidded him about being on a writing binge," Sellnow said, "and suggested he should write a novel.
"He said, 'Nah, just the facts. I'm just a newspaperman. That's all I was. That's all I ever be.'"
"Just a newspaperman' -- that's how many of his former co-workers at The Dispatch remembered Floyd Emerson.
"He was a great guy," said Bob Turcotte, retired advertising manager of the newspaper who was an ad salesman during Emerson's tenure. "He was a good editor. He was a strict editor. He went by the rules."
Terry McCollough, Dispatch publisher, remembers starting at the newspaper as an apprentice photographer under Emerson.
"He was certainly from the old school," McCollough said. "He was almost always dressed in a suit and tie. Oh, he might put on a cardigan on a Saturday.
"He was a good writer and a fine mentor. I know he helped me."
A former Graydon Avenue neighbor, Cecil McCollough, said, "I remember Floyd Emerson as a long time friend a fine gentleman who was a credit to the newspaper."
Sellnow became city editor of The Dispatch in 1962. He succeeded Emerson when he retired in 1974. Sellnow served 10 years as editor before leaving Minnesota in 1984.
"He was just a consummate newspaperman," Sellnow said. "He believed in the right of the press to print the news."
Sellnow said Emerson was particularly vigilant when it came to closed meetings. He would write editorials about the governmental action and then phone officials in protest.
But Sellnow said he saw a softer side of Emerson, too. He remembers the day President Kennedy was assassinated.
"I had gone home for lunch," Sellnow said. "Floyd called me and told me about the shooting and said I needed to come back. I rushed back and here this tough, tough newspaperman was ripping dispatches off the wire and running with them to the composing room with tears running down his cheek."
Sellnow and McCollough also commented on Emerson's absent-minded nature. At least twice that quirk caused a little excitement in the old Dispatch newsroom on South Sixth Street.
Sellnow remembers that Emerson, when he was smoking cigarettes, would let the ashtray spill over. One day he dumped the ashtray and "pretty soon we looked over and smoke was curling up out of the wastebasket."
McCollough remembers when Emerson turned to smoking pipes and caught his desk on fire when he put the pipe down on the desk and forgot about it.
After retiring as editor of The Dispatch Emerson and his wife, Frances, lived in Florida and the Carolinas before returning to their native South Dakota. Mrs. Emerson died in 1997.
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