• 79°

Thank you, Troup County

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

When Julie and I arrived in LaGrange nearly two decades ago, we felt this would be another temporary stop on what had seemingly been a non-stop journey over the previous eight years.

We were married in 1994 in Dalton, and from there it was on to Albany, Rome, Cartersville and Acworth.

At that young age there’s something fun and adventurous about not setting down roots and going from community to community and job to job, and heaven knows we did plenty of that in those days.

In the fall of 2002 we loaded up the moving truck and arrived in LaGrange, and honestly at the time we didn’t think anything would be different, even though we had added a family member to the fold (our daughter Rachel was born the day I was supposed to begin as the sports editor in August of that year).

As the years passed, though, something unexpected happened.

We realized we didn’t want to leave, that we’d perhaps discovered the place that we were meant to be, that we’d found the ideal community to raise our daughter.

Troup County, a place I’d had only a fleeting familiarity with previously, was home, and it has remained so for almost 20 years.

The reason for this look back is to express my appreciation and gratitude that our journey led us here, to a community that is so special and meaningful to my family.

It does not seem like it was 18 years ago when our daughter was born, and thanks to Andrea Lovejoy (my boss at the time and I owe her so much) for letting me start this job a few days late.

Now, Rachel is a high-school graduate and preparing to begin the next stage of her life as a college student at Georgia Southern University.

I am grateful that LaGrange is the only place Rachel has ever called home, and she has had so many positive influences over the years.

It’s unfortunate that Rachel, and every member of the class of 2020, missed out on so much because of the coronavirus, and my heart goes out to the seniors.

From a sports standpoint, the seniors on the spring teams were unable to see their final seasons through to the conclusion.

I hated it for all of them.

One of the reasons (and there are a bunch of them) I enjoy my job is the opportunity to get to know the student-athletes at the schools, to document their achievements, to watch them grow and develop not just as athletes, but as people.

Thank you to all of those seniors, and I hope you know how much you are appreciated and valued.

As for the future, even though Rachel is leaving us (and I’m fine with admitting that has caused a few tears to be shed), LaGrange will remain our

home, and hopefully I’ll be able to keep telling the stories of our local student-athletes for years to come.

Like anyone else in my age group, I’ve reminisced, and wondered what life may have been like if I’d gone in a different direction.

So many of my peers have left this business, which is remarkably unstable, and there have been ample opportunities for me to do the same.

I can honestly say I have no regrets.

My advice to the members of the class of 2020 is to find a career you’re passionate about, and attack it with gusto, and make sure you enjoy the ride.

The LaGrange Daily News has afforded me the opportunity to do what I love to do, and for me the enthusiasm is the same now as it was 18 years ago when I had my first byline at this newspaper.

Thanks to everyone in this commun