Despite being an Butler County boy, and having been involved in newspaper journalism my whole adult life, I never worked with longtime Augusta Gazette publisher Carter Zerbe.
Maybe that’s a good thing. After all, we never had an argument. My memories of Carter invoke nothing but smiles and laughs.
My family moved here from Florida when I was in first grade, and my father started his own business as an electrician. There is some discrepancy over who came up with the idea over dad’s ad that ran in the Gazette, but Carter took full credit …
“Knapp Electric – let us look into your shorts.”
What can I say, it was the ‘70s.
Twenty years ago I was at a newspaper conference in Kansas City when Paul Stevens from the Associated Press reacquainted me with Carter, who immediately reminded me of that ad. He asked me about my parents, and about my job, and he left me feeling like I was the most important person in the room.
And that’s what he continued to do over the years. Carter seemed to pop up everywhere – banquets, fundraisers, Gridiron – and he always left an impression.
I was fascinated with Carter, who died Saturday at age 72. He just looked like a newspaper man. Sounded like one, too - quick, poignant words with a raspy voice. I eventually came to realize he was the quintessential small town publisher: Passionate, knowledgeable and involved in his community, with just the right amount of toughness and cynicism.
Before last week, I hadn’t seen him in a couple months. I grabbed him as his car was running in the parking lot (as it often was when he had a conversation with anybody). A mutual friend of ours kept asking me to tell him hello, and his eyes lit up when I mentioned her name.
“She’s the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen!” he said. “You know, their parents named all their kids beginning with ‘r.’”
Yeah I know, I replied. They lived on our block.
But Carter proceeded to name them anyway, just to prove he could.
You know what I just realized? As far as last memories go, that one isn’t bad.
Adam Knapp has spent most of his journalism career writing for the Wichita Eagle. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Andover American.
Page 2 of 2 -