Thank You, Salem

I met Leonard McGrane on a park bench in the Common on a hot July evening.

My journey with Salem Patch literally began with Leonard (read it here).

An end to that journey would not seem complete without one final lap around the Common on my way to that bench where I met Leonard over two years ago. Thank you for taking the journey with me and for sticking with me as I make one last lap.

Yes, you read that correctly. My time with Salem Patch has just about come to an end. Halloween will be my final day.

Editor Aubry Bracco on one final walk through town. Courtesy Pamela Joye.

Believe it or not, I didn’t intentionally plan an exit on the Witch City’s biggest day of the year. It’s just how things shook out. Here, strange happenings tend to be convention, so it’s rather apropos that I’ll be surrounded by the moans of the living dead, bullhorn battles and the clack of Clydesdale hooves.

I’d like to think of it as a true Salem “bon voyage.”

News of my departure might elicit any of the following:

1. Hooray! Finally!

2. That’s too bad, why?

3. I don’t give a hoot.

Though I’d hope most of you would settle comfortably into option two, I know that every journey in life is not without choppy seas or a broken wagon wheel along the way. Whichever boat (or wagon) you’re in, or even if you’ve already set sail on the I Don’t Give a Hoot, my message is simple, but comes straight from my Halloween-loving heart.

Thank you.

When I came to Patch in June 2010, I was confident I wanted to tell people’s stories, and I wanted to do it at home in New England (I grew up in New Hampshire). I’d always dreamed of building a community news outlet from the ground up, and Patch gave me the chance to do just that.

There were moments of success, and there were moments when things didn’t go quite as planned. But now, I’d like to focus on the big picture.

Just over two years ago, was as empty as our city will be on Nov. 1. Together, we built Salem Patch.

Thank you.

You shared your stories, and you taught me what it means to be from Salem (I’ve learned it can mean many things).

 You inspired me to lead this site with heart and moxie.

One thing is for sure — I was in the thick of things from the very beginning to the very end — from getting doused by a hose at the Salem Street fire on my first breaking news assignment to getting caught in the (fake) bloody crossfire between zombies and religion just a few weeks ago.

You challenged me. You taught me how to be a diplomat. You made me see through your lenses, and I looked through many — from the “always rosy” variety to the “always raining” ones.

Thank you.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that conversations on the issues we tackled weren’t always comfortable.

In moments when you’re frustrated or compelled to hit “reply” or “submit” in the comments section on Salem Patch, I’d encourage you to consider yourself lucky to live in a place where people are so passionate about their city. You care. And, most likely, your fellow Salemite with a completely different view does too.

Salem is sort of a big fruitcake — we’re all different kinds of nuts, fruits and spices. Our variety is what makes this place so exciting and unique. Sometimes, however, we could all work a bit harder to co-exist peacefully in the batter that is our city.

If you’re wondering why I’m moving on, it’s quite simply because it’s time for a new adventure. It’s time for me to explore the world of managing and activating communities from a different angle.

I’m sure there isn’t another Salem Harbor Power Station in my future, and if I ask people in a moment of exhaustion “How long until Nov. 1?” they’ll be utterly confused. Wherever I go, the challenges will be different, but you’ve all prepared me well.

I’ve worked with an outstanding team here at Patch, and I trust you are in good hands. I also urge you to take the Salem Patch experience into your own hands — that’s been the beauty of Patch since Day One.

To those of you who have been my friends and stuck by me day by day through this often crazy adventure, my brevity in acknowledging you here isn’t an indicator of the depth of my appreciation. Properly expressing my gratefulness to each of you is something that can only be done face-to-face.

So, Salem, that brings me back to the Common (thank you for bearing with me on my somewhat lengthy final lap) and to that bench — you know that one, the one by the arch — where I met Leonard McGrane.

Leonard shared stories about his life in Salem, raising a family in Salem and even leaving for war and coming back. He loved this city for what it was and what he thought it could be.

United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Leonard T. McGrane Sr. died on July 31, 2012. I learned the news just after his funeral in early August.

I was saddened to hear that a man I revered as a living history book had passed on. But, as I read Leonard’s obituary, the stories he told me that evening on the Common became even more vivid. It reinforced my hunch that through the peaks and valleys of life, this man’s love for his city was unconditional, and that is a very special thing indeed.

He was the first one to share and show me what it means to be from Salem.

Leonard McGrane, thank you.

Thank you Pamela Joye, for granting your permission to use the attached shot. Find more of Pamela’s work here.

Originally published in Salem Patch Oct. 31, 2012.

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