Thirty-six years ago, my two daughters were just little gals and I was terrified by the responsibilities of my new single-parent role. Piecing together a life for us in Ninilchik also meant piecing together employment opportunities out of what was available.
Standing for hours in ankle-deep icy water, I worked a cannery slime line. Waitressing tested my patience and limited ability to humor picky eaters. I crewed on a halibut boat. I ran a preschool. And I got my first writing job: a Homer News weekly column of events in and around Ninilchik.
Jump ahead to 1999. Both daughters had graduated from college and started their own families. I’d managed to get myself through college on the 20-year plan and, along the way, reconnected with my love of writing.
After freelancing a few feature stories for the Peninsula Clarion, I was offered the opportunity by the paper’s editor, Lori Evans, to work in the newsroom. I’d never considered being a reporter. My dream was to write best-selling books. However, working with an editor on a daily basis, someone I knew would make me a better writer, was an offer I didn’t refuse.
Ten years ago, after spreading my wings and writing for other newspapers and magazines, I heard the Homer News was looking for a reporter. Lori had become the paper’s publisher and editor and I emailed her, telling her I knew just the person for the job: me. Thankfully, she agreed.
What a 10 years it has been. There was a hair-raising plane ride out of Nanwalek one windy afternoon, with the woman beside me screaming and the man beside the pilot yelling “yippy kay yay.” There was the trip aboard the USCGC Roanoke when a nasty Cook Inlet storm knocked me to the floor of the ship’s bridge and snapped a bone in my foot. There were joyous first-of-the-year births and tearful passings. Graduations and murder trials. Volcanic eruptions and tsunami warnings. Monstrous halibut and bear encounters. Year upon year, a constant flow of stories.
Family life merged with reporting. My daughters and their husbands provided computers and quiet corners in the midst of my visits to their California and Oregon homes so I could write about Homer events occurring in my absence. Grandson Colby has been my sidekick, shooting photos and co-writing columns. Granddaughters Sophia, Gable and Harper have been my inspirations.
During the final years of my dad’s life, as my sister and I spent more and more time at his side, writing was the anchor that kept my nose into the wind and my course steady.
When I first started writing, my friend Kathleen predicted it would bring someone into my life. That someone was Sandy, to whom I’ve now been married six years. Already retired, he has cooked, laundered and cleaned, while frequently not knowing what time I’ll walk in the door or what my schedule will be from day to day. He has been to school board and city council meetings; basketball, hockey and football games; fairs, rodeos and carnivals, all the time patiently waiting for me to retire.
And so I am. Friday is my last day at the Homer News.
It’s a bittersweet departure from co-workers who have become like family, from Lori who continues to correct my writing and from the Homer News’ many readers.
To those of you who have trusted me with your stories, forgiven my mistakes and allowed me into your lives, it has been an honor I never imagined when I wrote that first “Ninilchik News” column.
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Editor’s Note: It’s worth noting that retirement in McKibben Jackinsky’s vocabulary isn’t slowing down, withdrawing or retreating in any way. It’s tackling new adventures with the same enthusiasm she’s approached her stories — your stories — at the Homer News. You’ll continue to see her byline as she volunteered — yes, volunteered — to keep covering some basketball games. We suspect when she checks off a few items from her retirement to-do list, she’ll propose some new story ideas. At least we hope so.
How much those of us at the Homer News will miss her can’t be measured. “Thank you” falls far short of what we want to say. However, we have promised her we will cheer her on as she embarks on this new journey. We ask you to join us at an informal open house from 3-5 p.m. today to say thanks — for the thousands of McKibben Jackinsky stories that have appeared in the Homer News and touched your life.
Thank you, McKibben. Here’s to life after deadline.