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Longtime Tonopah journalist lays down his pen

Some people can make a deep impact on our life, even if they were only in our world ever so briefly.

That is how I feel while reflecting on the death Saturday of lifelong newspaperman Bill Roberts.

Bill’s resume in journalism, and in life is impressive.

After being an all-state athlete in Tonopah and getting a degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, he dived into journalism. By 1974, his family had acquired the Tonopah Times-Bonanza & Goldfield News, along with two other central Nevada newspapers.

But that’s just some points in a much more complex and interesting life (part of which is captured in his front page obituary).

I met Bill for the first time one year ago this week. I had been named as editor of the Tonopah Times-Bonanza & Goldfield News a couple of months earlier, so I felt it was important to make the 167-mile drive north to that newspaper’s office.

I wrote about that visit in a column that ran in both the Tonopah and Pahrump newspapers the first week of December. One of the highlights of my visit was the tour in the back of the Times-Bonanza office, which is basically a museum to old newspapers.

With palpable excitement, Bill showed me the old machines that were used to produce the newspapers and the press where the copies used to be run. The equipment hasn’t been used for years, but there it sits perfectly preserved, as if everyone just walked out one day and sealed the door behind them. It was interesting to listen to Bill talk about how newspapers used to be done, which was a lot of work and typesetting by hand, long before the Internet streamlined the process (and cut jobs).

Roberts wrote of my visit in the Tonopah newspaper on Dec. 4. He also wrote about me in a style that was uniquely Bill to anyone who read his weekly columns.

“But Arnold … arrived at the Times and News last Friday with smiles on their face and questions about the community – unlike previous meetings when the editor or others simply wanted to tell how the cow ate the cabbage – and how he would eat it in the future. Our new editor seems to have a concern for our community and its history.”

I last saw Bill on Oct. 5, and I could clearly see he had declined healthwise from when I first met him 10 months earlier. But there he was, on a Monday, sitting at his desk working on copy for that week’s newspaper. I told him that while the newspaper was important, I was more interested in how he was doing personally. I told him not to put his health in front of the newspaper and take whatever time he needed when he needed. I had no sense this was the last time I’d see him in person, but that may have been me not wanting to see. Who knows?

At the end of his Dec. 4 column, Bill wrote that I had “the choice if I should stay or go.” I can honestly say that thought had never crossed my mind, even when I saw him for the last time in what turned out to be less than seven weeks before his passing.

In what was his last column Nov. 12, he wrote about a similar meeting. This was with the new publisher, Noah Cusick. He talked about his beloved newspaper’s future, and how he was hopeful for its future.

“You have a small staff here in Tonopah but each one of us is ready to meet your goals.”

But nine days later his pen has been silenced, and Nevada journalism and Tonopah is a little less without him.

But we are all a little richer for him having been in our lives, even if many may have only known him on the printed page, or only briefly.

 

Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times. Contact him at aknightly@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @KnightlyGrind

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