March 13, 2020 11:02:23 AM
t was a little after 10 a.m. on a weekday. Another edition of the newspaper was printing on the press, and Don Rowe was sitting in my office.
He had been in the newsroom since about 3:30 a.m.
For about a month in 2019, this was a familiar scene. Don always made one last stop to talk with me about the next day's sports section before running off to an assignment or heading home to Monroe County for a while, then covering a sporting event that night.
Our meetings were usually brief and to the point, where work was concerned. But just about each day, before he left, he shared a clever joke, a personal story, an anecdote about something/someone cool he had covered in his decades as a sports journalist or just doted about something one of his children or grandchildren had done. For those few weeks, I looked forward to those moments as much as anything else that happened in my work day.
And as he left each day, I'd think, "Boy, I'm glad he's here." He certainly didn't have to be.
Don, who had been a freelance sports writer for The Dispatch for several years covering high school sports contests our staff reporters couldn't get to themselves, agreed in February 2019 to be our interim sports editor while we looked for a permanent replacement for longtime sports editor Adam Minichino.
We didn't quite know what to expect from Don when he started. He had been a sports editor for more than 20 years in Aberdeen and West Point and had been a most reliable freelancer. But what we were asking him to do was a monumental task.
What he gave us was his very best, pouring himself into the job and taking great pride in getting each day's sports section out the door, paying attention to the smallest of details as he did it. Not only that, but he was a joy to have in the newsroom and someone our entire staff looked forward to seeing each day he was here.
Don, 75, passed away Thursday at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, news that hit The Dispatch staff especially hard. As his family prepares to celebrate his life, we wanted to say what we could to honor his memory.
It was an honor to share a newsroom with Don in what would be the final chapter of a long and respectable journalism career. His hard work inspired all of us in the newsroom, and he was every bit as kind and gentle to the people around him as he was doggedly determined to complete his work well.
I wish I'd had the opportunity to know him longer, as some others -- like Adam Minichino, who counted him a longtime trusted friend -- did. But even in the little bit of time I worked with Don, he made an indelible, positive impact.
As we offer condolences to Don's family for his passing, we also wish to salute a good man, a valued coworker and a fellow journalist.
Godspeed, Mr. Don.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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