Two remarkable individuals were recognized at the Southeast Missouri Press Association meeting recently. They are Joni Adams Bliss, who was the inspirational managing editor of this newspaper for many years before departing to lead Southeast Missouri Hospital's Internet operations; and Mildred Walhausen, who was a newspaper woman in Charleston, Mo., for 73 years, including four decades as publisher of The Enterprise-Courier. Both died within the last 12 months after touching the lives of many in powerful and positive ways. Among her initiatives at the Missourian, Joni developed a campaign around "Random Acts of Kindness." And much of her family's life was charted in the columns of her husband and longtime Missourian writer, Mark.
The recognitions were led by SEMO Press officer Peggy Scott, a former reporter at the Missourian, who at one point wrote a column about the World Wide Web with Joni, and who worked closely with Walhausen for many years on the SEMO Press board. She did a magnificent job, eloquently and amusingly paying tribute to one of her closest friends, Joni, who died too young from cancer, and to a lady, Mildred, whose passion, sense of humor and love of print journalism inspired many.
Several years ago Walhausen was inducted into the Missouri Press Hall of Fame. At this SEMO Press meeting, Joni was recognized with the Mildred Walhausen Award, the highest honor bestowed here.
Accepting on behalf of Joni was husband Mark, who was surrounded by his colleagues at Southeast Missouri Hospital, as well as friends from the Missourian and the media from all of Southeast Missouri. Art Walhausen accepted on behalf of his mother. Both presented two of the classiest and heart-warming speeches I've ever heard.
At the press meeting, one of the sessions I was most interested in was dedicated to Missouri's Sunshine Law. Among the expected topics was the local case that continues to wind its way through the legal system concerning the closing of a particular Cape Girardeau County Commission meeting. Jean Maneke, the highly regarded attorney for the Missouri Press, led the panel, which also included local attorney and Sunshine specialist J.P. Clubb. Clubb is directly involved in the Cape Girardeau County case. Adding to the atmosphere was that Gerald Jones, presiding commissioner and Jackson Cashbook Journal newspaper owner, was also in the room.
As befits a Missouri Press function, the discussions that ensued were illuminating and fascinating. J.P Clubb did an excellent job covering the topics he addressed, though it was clear that no one really wanted to tackle the specifics of the Cape Girardeau County case too deeply. Plenty of commentary will likely come soon enough. Decisions are released by the Missouri Appeals Court every Tuesday.
From the perspective of the local newspaper, we hope that whatever the decision, the lesson from this particular episode is that the commission--and all commissioners--strive for transparency, fairness and good government in all that they do.
Two major events--likely to be followed widely -- are drawing near for this area. The first is the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions at Dalhousie Golf Club. This is a national junior golf tournament, which boasts to feature golfers whose names sports fans will likely be hearing for years. On the girls' side, 10 of the participants are already qualified for this year's U.S. Open. If you run into a golfer or his or her family--or better yet, have an opportunity to watch some of the action on the course -- be sure to welcome them to town. Cape Girardeau gains significant prestige--as well as tourism revenue -- from an event like this, and the organizers are to be commended. Dates for the championship are July 1 to 4. Of course, no event like this happens without local businesses pitching in, and Montgomery Bank is at the top of the list of sponsors. If you're interested in helping, contact the volunteer hot line at 573-803-0055.
The other major event is the Tour of Missouri, one of the country's most heralded cycling competitions, which will ride through Cape Girardeau on September 8. Teams are entered from around the world. The main buzz is that Lance Armstrong's team will be taking part--with or without Lance. But whether or not he's among the riders, you will have an opportunity to see some of the finest athletes in their sport in the world.
Again, such an event does not take place without local support. Making it possible for the tour to come through Cape Girardeau as top level sponsors are Southeast Missouri Hospital and Saint Francis Medical Center. If you're interested in volunteering or helping with the tour, go to www.tourofmissouri.com and click on the volunteer section. The local volunteer coordinator is Troy Vaughn, director of the Southeast Missouri State University Student Recreation Center.