As of July 4, I am no longer a Sun Journal reporter. Ouch.

After 35-plus years as a reporter, I am retiring. Time flies.

Sun Journal reporter Bonnie Washuk is retiring. Among her plans for the summer: Hosting Camp Grandma Bonnie for grandsons Clark and Will Washuk and Eddie Washuk IV. 

I started on Halloween 1983. Fellow reporter Andrew Rice has pointed out I’ve been at this job before he was born. Thank you, Andrew.

I’ve seen so much through the years. I love how Lewiston-Auburn has changed.

From the restaurant scene to people moving back downtown to the festivals, new schools, more youth, more vigor and energy. The Somali community has turned an empty downtown Lisbon Street into a happening place. Lewiston High School resembles the United Nations with students from many cultures. It’s a community with a lot going for it. It’s a great news town. People here are dynamic.

In this era of media bashing, I’m always heartened when I set out to do heard-on-the-street interviews, going up to strangers, like Roger Potvin last week, explaining what story I’m working on, would they like to share their New Year’s resolutions, their thoughts on Maine’s new plastic bag ban, who did they vote for for governor or how did they vote on the school budget and why?

Instead of telling me to get lost, for the most part people offer their opinions and let Russ Dillingham, Daryn Slover or Andree Kehn take their photos. There’s still a lot of trust, which is very cool.

At (almost) 63 I still have energy. I love my work.

But the commute from Portland to Lewiston is wearing on me. And my grandsons, Will, Clark and Eddie of Chicago, and Alex of Los Angeles, could use some of my time. I’d like to give it to them. I’m having the Chicago boys for the summer. I can’t think of a better way for them to spend July and August. Two are identical twins, maybe I’ll finally figure out which one is Will and which one is Clark.

Leaving, though, is oh so hard.

I count my blessings. This job not only allowed me to feed my family (no one got fat!), it’s given me rich experiences. I’ve met some inspiring, amazing people, from election worker Irene MacDougall to Julia Sleeper to so many local teachers and Lewiston-Auburn police officers doing what they do, looking out for others.

I sat down with John McCain when he ran for president, Edward Kennedy when he campaigned for Mike Michaud, sat in the U.S. Supreme Court covering Chellie Pingree’s sponsored State of Maine vs. PhRMA hearing. I was in an Edward Little classroom when Patrick Dempsey made a surprise appearance to thank students for raising money to help cancer survivors. You should have seen their stunned faces! That plum assignment helped make up, a little, for all the night meetings when proficiency-based grading debates droned on.

This is a great place to be a journalist. When I covered the State House, Gov. Angus King got so used to me that at daily press time he’d say something, then he’d read my face and answer the question before I had a chance to ask it. I’d be a bad poker player.

Under Govs. King, and John Baldacci and now Janet Mills, reporters have access to state experts.

Calls to Superintendents Bill Webster and Katy Grondin of Lewiston and Auburn, respectively, were promptly returned, even if they knew there were questions about a student death, why did the budget go up, and how will that affect the owner of that $150,000 home?

This week, Lewiston’s new superintendent, Todd Finn, called offering his new cellphone number. See what I mean? Local and state officials mostly stand ready to answer questions, which is good for everyone.

I hope through the years I did a good enough job of asking the right questions.

After the grandsons return to Chicago this fall I’ll have to find something to do. I don’t know exactly what. Senior college? Dog walker? Cooking classes? Continue writing? Things will be very different.

I will miss the wonderful, dedicated people I work with; they’ve been a kind of family. I’ve worked with Russ Dillingham and Mark Mogensen all 35 years. Judy Meyer is the best boss. The talented, young editors and reporters have things under control.

I will miss this community, so many good people, the beautiful sights of the Great Falls, the colorful dress of Somali women and girls walking down Lisbon Street. The smiling faces. The graceful, Gothic City Hall, the lit-up steeples of the basilica, the mill buildings.

To everyone who honored me by allowing me to ask questions, a sincere thank you. I leave with a very grateful heart.


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