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When my news editor, Deb Flemming, shared with me three weeks ago that she had received a cancer diagnosis, I don’t think either one of us expected things to change so rapidly.
Doctors initially told Deb she couldn’t work on the weekend just days after she was diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer. But in true Deb fashion she expected to be back doing what she loved to do best—community journalism.
Regrettably, that never happened.
Deb died last Monday night (March 14) just minutes after I finished wrapping up putting together and designing last week’s edition. It’s almost as if she gave her final blessing on last week’s paper and then moved on to a better place.
While the two of us worked together on the paper for the past year and a half with many late Monday nights, something was missing last week when I was doing it alone. It just didn’t seem right. I didn’t have her to bounce ideas off or suggestions for making things better.
Just to let you know how fast things happened, when it became apparent Deb couldn’t stick with us any longer, we had planned to have a get together with her to recognize her many years of dedication to the newspaper industry. Sadly, she became sick so quickly, we didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye.
She didn’t even get a chance to read any of the coverage we had in last week’s edition, including the column I wrote about her passionate career as a journalist. I know she probably wouldn’t have been happy with me that I made such a fuss about her.
But Deb deserved every bit of fuss we made about her.
I just regret we weren’t able to get together one last time.
As I look back over the past few months, I will forever cherish one moment Deb and I enjoyed together. She got to go out in a blaze of glory at the Minnesota Newspaper Convention in January when the Times captured the first place general excellence category. She was incredibly proud of earning that award, which has long been considered a benchmark of a successful newspaper. Very deserving for such a passionate journalist like Deb!
She was a passionate believer in the First Amendment and the public’s right to know what elected officials were doing. She filed several lawsuits against government bodies over the years in support of the state’s Open Meeting Law.
And she was ever so skeptical of most everything in life (a great trait for a journalist), even with things going on within our own organization. We all got a chuckle a few weeks back when Deb in her most sincere tone questioned our rapidly increasing website numbers and implied that somebody must be padding them. We assured Deb there was really no way for that to happen.
The newspaper industry is more solid because of Deb Flemming. Our communities across southern Minnesota are in a better place because of Deb Flemming. Some young journalists are shining brighter because of Deb Flemming.
And, of course, the Times is a better newspaper because of the contributions from Deb Flemming. She possessed very high standards and expected nothing less from those of us who worked with her.
If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past few weeks, don’t put off telling those that matter most how much they mean to you. As I found in this particular situation, you may never get that chance again. Life changes that quickly!
I will be forever grateful of what Deb provided our readers, even in the last few months when her body struggled with cancer. She was a gem that will be greatly missed.
May Deb go in hot pursuit of eternal rest.

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