It’s true that us old farts have glommed on to Facebook making it uncool for kids to hang around much anymore but I don’t give a rip. I’ve had great joy reconnecting socially with people from the past..especially those who passed through the Keloland newsroom on their way to bigger and better things. Many came just to chalk up some broadcasting cred and didn’t leave much of a footprint but others really enjoyed their experience here and left with more than just news knowledge.
That was Steve Boyd; a tall, dark handsome lad from Buffalo, New York who we all figured would come in having a big city attitude. He had an attitude all right; one of respect, good humor and a thirst for learning all he could about the business. Steve went on to work a few more years in television news before going to law school. He’s been a successful attorney in his hometown of Buffalo for many years but never forgot his time in Keloland as is evidenced by this memory he wrote and shared on Facebook. I, in turn, want you to read it in hopes you will be as moved as I. Again, the following are words written by Steve Boyd which he posted on Facebook Sunday morning. (At the end of his story, I’ve put a link to a blog I did about Jan Peterson shortly after her death.)
In November 1988 I was anchoring the weekend news at KELOLAND News in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Despite the size of the market, KELO-TV was one of the best local TV news rooms in the country. Reporters had expense accounts back then. We were expected to use them to develop relationships with sources for future stories. We were the smallest market in the country to own a satellite truck (new technology in the 1980’s). When big news broke, money was no object. We covered five states and we were stacked with talented Journalists.
One of them was a short curly haired bespectacled Executive Producer named Jan Peterson, Jan started at KELO as an intern and over time she became our leader. She had a passion for Journalism (yes that’s a capital “J”). She set high standards and she was involved in countless community charitable endeavors. As our former anchorman Steve Hemmingsen described in a 2004 Christmas post:
“She was one of those balls of fire that with her little red pickup (before that was cool) was involved in everything, every project at the station and projects that helped others who faced challenges, banging nails for Habitat for Humanity, taking blind people skiing in the Black Hills, using her summer vacation to be counselor at a church camp.”
I had arrived at KELO in the fall of 1987. I’m pretty sure Executive Producer Jan Peterson had little regard for some A-hole (yes capital “A”) from Buffalo who was looking to make a quick stop in Sioux Falls before moving on in his career. But over time, with Jan at the helm, along with Mark Millage, Steve Hemmingsen and others, I began to really learn what it meant to be a Journalist.
One night when staff was particularly short, Jan produced our weekend news. Between shows, she wanted to show me and fellow Anchor/Reporter Julie Francavilla a little diner where we would allegedly experience the best apple pie of our lives. I don’t remember if the pie was any good, I’ll never forget the conversation.
Big fat white snow flakes were slowly wandering to the ground outside the window as we sat there. It was pitch black outside and only the lights from the diner illuminated the sparse flakes. It was the first snowfall of 1988. Jan from Boone, Iowa, Julie from Boulder, Colorado and this Buffalonian laughed as we discussed and debated our expertise on the topic of what it took to make a “perfect” snowfall. Was it the big fat gentle flakes we were witnessing? Did the perfect snow leave the kind of powder that western skiers love so much? Or was it heavier for good packing in a snowball fight? This discussion lasted a long time and we laughed, agreed and disagreed. As we paid the bill I made a promise to Jan. No matter where I was in the world I would always think of her and that conversation when the first snow fell.
I left Sioux Falls for Buffalo in 1989. Two years later at age of 32 Jan Peterson suffered a major stroke. She was paralyzed from the eyes down. The stroke robbed her of every bodily function except her sight, her hearing and her brilliant mind. Jan lived inside the prison of her body for fifteen years until she passed and was buried in Boone, Iowa on May 3rd, 2008.
Yesterday, as I walked out to my car I saw flurries in the air. They didn’t stick to the ground. They left no covering, no powder to blow, nothing to pack. This year’s first snowfall was not at all perfect. Still, for the 28th time the first flakes of the year took me back to an old diner in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and a promise to my old friend Jan Peterson. Long gone. Never forgotten.