By Tom Dirsa
The Pipestone Flyer
A few years ago I answered an ad in the Pipestone-Flyer for a “sports” reporter. The Editor/Publisher was looking for a reporter to cover sports in the Leduc area and was interested in covering sports other than hockey.
Well, I had recently retired as a high school principal who had coached a number of different high school sports over the years and since, as a teacher of English and History, I was well aware of the five W’s. So I applied and before long, there was a phone call from the Editor wondering if I would be available for an interview.
Twenty minutes later I was walking into the Pipestone-Flyer’s office in Millet and shaking hands with Ted Okkerse, the Publisher & Editor of the paper. To make a long story short, after the interview I walked out as the new sports guy for Leduc and writer for the paper. Soon I was covering football in Breton, sled dog racing in Pigeon Lake, epic marathon slow pitch games in Leduc, and go-carts in Warburg along with a variety of high school sports as part of my assignment. Then a year later, after I was asked to cover the Dr. Woods Museum’s Tea, I began a series of historical articles that captured the interest of our readers.
What I didn’t know at the time was that I had also had become a member of a new family. Over the years I have been part of other “Mom & Pop” type operations, and what I have always liked is the way you are treated by the people in charge. They all seemed to know that their success is based on the way they treat their workers and their customers. I had never given much thought about that concept when I thought about the newspaper industry, but over the past three years I have come to appreciate that feeling every time I walk into the paper’s office.
It all starts with the boss! Ted Okkerse is one of those bosses who is prepared to listen to concerns and make changes as he sees fit, and willing to adapt new techniques to get the job done. That’s not to say that Ted is always happy go lucky or bends to the wind of change. He can be determined and make the hard decisions needed to ensure that each week, his readers are getting the best paper possible.
Over the past few years we have had many talks on a whole range of subjects and I came to realize that I was more on the liberal side of things, and that Ted was on the more conservative side of many issues, but we often found that we were in agreement on the important things in life. I doubt if I would ever convince him of the virtues of Mac computers, or he me of the value of PC’s, but when it came to honoring our veterans or paying tribute to the people who every day put their life on the line for our safety, there was never a disagreement.
We are from the same generation, a generation who grew up with a great appreciation of what our parents went through to make our lives better. We were too young to fight in WWII or suffer from the depression of the 30’s. We grew up in a world, which was improving, and we were allowed to explore new frontiers.
Ted left Holland after World War II as a youngster and I left a quiet fishing village on Cape Cod to seek our future in Canada. I took an easier path than Ted; My world allowed me to follow my passion for history, and I became a teacher and later a principal. Meanwhile, Ted used his hands and his ingenuity to carve out a number of careers and professions until he became the publisher and editor of the Pipestone-Flyer.
Ted is a musician by heart and I am a want-to-be athlete. I am tone deaf and Ted is not, shall we say, a candidate for Dancing With the Stars. Ted pushes 6’3” and I, 5’8”. Together, we look more like Mutt & Jeff than Mutt & Jeff!
We are worlds apart in many ways and yet, quite similar in others. I did not grow up with a German soldier in my bedroom and Ted never got the opportunity to play Little League baseball, but we both share a love for our adopted country, Canada. We both believe that people should be informed and have a voice in the things that affect their lives. It was that reason why Ted started the Pipestone-Flyer, and it is the reason why I love writing for the paper.
In life you meet a lot of people, some are like ships passing in the night and you know them briefly as they pass on by. Others you know for a lifetime and are in constant contact with, while others become friends and remain, even though you don’t see them on a regular basis. I have been fortunate to have a few friends that when you meet again, you can immediately start a conversation as if you had talked to them just minutes ago, even if years have past since you last spoke to each other.
I have listened to Ted’s recording of the Rising Sun and he has listened to my endless stories about my oldest grandson, and we have shared a few laughs and during this time, even though we only saw each other a few times a month, we became friends.
I wish my friend Ted well as he puts up his feet and basks in the sun at his cabin on the lake in B.C. He has earned a rest, but I know he will soon be picking up a musical instrument and begin recording some of his favorite tunes for the enjoyment of no one else but himself and Dian’s. Goodbye my Friend!