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The Good Life: Reflecting on the first six years of the Gering Citizen
May 21, 2015 Lisa Betz   

Read more by Lisa Betz
This Wednesday, The Gering Citizen celebrates six years of delivering the news. What an adventure it has been.

When I came back to Gering in 2006, I intended for it to be a short stay. After a long-term acting job ended, I felt called to go home instead of returning to Detroit, so I packed up the Nissan X-Terra with all of my belongings, which Iíd scaled down considerably during my time as an actress, and headed west.

I figured it was time to see my grandparents for a longer, more meaningful visit and to reconnect with the Betz family, of whom Iíd seen little over the years.

It took a while to find a job here. With a masterís in acting, what would I do? I applied at the Star-Herald, hoping to write about arts and entertainment, but the paper wasnít hiring. I ended up working with the Office of Human Development, and teaching at the college part-time.

Seeing family again, especially my Grandpa Cleo Gering and Grandmother Louise Betz, was a highlight. Being home close to my mother was an interesting experience, too.

There is nothing like being away for 20 years, creating the life you want and the person you choose to be, then returning to your motherís house. Whoa, where did that old pattern come from?

Coming home has been one of the best gifts I could give myself for personal development, healing, learning more about myself, and where I come from.

Itís ironic to be writing this as area students are graduating, standing at the beginning of their life journey. When I graduated, though I spent two years at NWC (thatís the old acronym for Western Nebraska Community College), I couldnít wait to get away from Gering. I was sick of the boring view, ready to fly. I knew Iíd never come back to this cow town for more than visits.

Imagine my surprise when I returned 20 years later, discovering a deeper connection with my family, this land and my roots.

I spent free time at the then North Platte Valley Museum researching my ancestor, Martin Gering, for whom our town was named. I was sitting at one of the tables, poring over bound copies of the early day Gering Couriers when Jim Headley, then editor of the Courier and president of the museum board, wheeled in a dolly loaded with several boxes.

Barb Netherland, Patti Meyer and I wondered about all the hubbub. Jim said the Courier was moving to the Star Herald offices, and heíd been told to get rid of any old stuff left in the vault. So there he was, saving history.

I was concerned about Geringís future if someday there would be no newspaper to tell its stories. So, I organized a meeting in the basement of the library and invited Gering people to attend. To prepare, I went through each decade of the Courier and took photos of significant coverage throughout the many decades of its publication in order to prove the importance of community news.

With the help of Ken Kurtz and his team at Spectrum, we designed 12 panels highlighting the 12 decades of coverage, creating a visual display of a newspaperís significance to people of the Valley.

I invited then Star-Herald publisher Jim Holland to speak at this meeting. After that meeting, it made sense to shift my focus and help Jim Headley create an independent voice for Gering.

Much has happened since then. Jim left. Big stories came and went. Now, me, Jerry Purvis and Nina Betz are all that remain from the original staff.

Weíve said our sad goodbyes, too many for our short six years. We laid to rest Herminia Flores. Her weekly column as a simple woman looking at life from her wheelchair with hope, love of family and deep faith is still missed. Her way of creeping into oneís heart was a gift.

Another goodbye was more tragic. Sports writer and gifted political cartoonist Randy Sides died too young, along with his unfulfilled promise. We benefitted from two years of Randyís brilliant cartoons before he left us.

Finally, the recent and raw goodbye to beloved Dick Littell rocked our newspaper family. Dick drove to Torrington each Wednesday to pick up the freshly printed Citizen, and distribute copies throughout the Valley.

Dick was more than a distribution guy, he was family. Dick was my uncle and Ninaís brother-in-law. He was also friend to many people he saw each week on his route. Dick made friends easily with his ready smile. He gave lots of hugs and kept a positive outlook, even while struggling with cancer.

We loved them all, Herminia, Randy and Dick. In our short time serving this community, we have earned three angels to look out for us at The Citizen. Each of them loved the paper, and this community.

I am grateful for this journey, which has taught me humility, shown me how to be strong, given me perspective, and provided me the opportunity to fall in love with my family, my roots and this beautiful Valley. Itís hard to believe I took it for granted.

Today, I live at the foot of Dome Rock. I have been told my farm has the prettiest view in the Valley. Iím not sure if thatís true, but when I look outside my kitchen window, I sometimes wonder how in my youth did I ever think this view was boring? How did I ever see this magnificent place as something I needed to escape? I suppose it was the restlessness of youth. In watching The Citizen grow, Iíve come to appreciate and respect my home. Its roots in my heart are real. I realize, thereís no place in the world like it.

Hereís to six years of The Citizen and more to come.
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