FAIRMONT, W.Va. — When John Veasey walked into the newsroom of the West Virginian on Oct. 3, 1958, he didn’t know that he was beginning a long and prosperous career that would last more than 58 years.
He didn’t know that he would lead journalists throughout crises within the community, emergencies, natural disasters, accidents and deaths.
He didn’t know that the community would eventually look to him to rally those who faithfully read the newspaper each day to get behind and support community-service projects.
He didn’t know that eventually one of the most coveted spots in the newspaper to talk about an upcoming event would be his daily Notebook.
When he started his career, one day shy of 58 years ago today, he was a reporter who just graduated from West Virginia University looking to fill the open sports editor position at the West Virginian.
Today, 58 years later, Veasey announces his retirement. His last day in the office will be Friday.
“I was just happy to be starting a job,” Veasey said, looking back on the day he began his career in 1958. “I never thought about the future. I never thought about what would happen. Maybe in 10 or 15 years, I would go someplace else. I had a lot of opportunities but I never wanted them. I just loved it here.”
In 1958, Veasey began as the sports editor of the afternoon newspaper and by 1964 he was the wire editor and sports editor of the West Virginian. By 1970, he was named managing editor of the Fairmont Times and five years later was the editor of both papers. In 1976, the morning and the afternoon newspapers combined under one name, the Times West Virginian, and began publishing in the mornings with Veasey as editor.
Now, almost 22,000 editions of the newspaper later, Veasey will join his wife Rita in retirement and start the next phase of life. He says that he doesn’t have any major plans yet but will faithfully continue to write his popular Notebook for Sunday editions of the Times West Virginian.
Veasey has one son, Chance and his wife Keiko and their two children, Kaiya and Leo of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and two stepson, Todd and his wife Victoria and four children Jack, Lilly, Grant and Wesley of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Ryan and his wife Alison and their two children R.T. and Asher of Sissonville.
For a number of years, a popular annual feature in the newspaper was Veasey’s Christmas letter to his son Chance, who was always affectionately referred to as “Big Guy.” But in recent years, the Christmas letter has been addressed to Chance’s two children.
“John Veasey’s career is a true representation of the generations of editors, columnists and journalists who made community newspapers invaluable in West Virginia,” said Don Smith, executive director, West Virginia Press Association.
“Many of the great things that have happened in Fairmont — and in other similar communities around the state — became a reality because they were championed by writers such as John Veasey.
“Likewise, it’s impossible to count all of the injustices that John Veasey identified and helped correct. It’s the bright light of public scrutiny that corrupt individuals fear, and it’s the columns and editorials from John Veasey and his fellow journalists that aim the beam.”
Over the course of six decades, there have been many major news stories that Veasey and his staff have brought to readers, including the coverage of the 1968 explosion at the Farmington No. 9 Mine. The national media heavily covered the explosion, but it was Veasey and the staff of the afternoon West Virginian who offered the first report to readers.
In 1991, Veasey organized a welcome-home parade and event for local troops returning from Desert Storm with a fleet of community volunteers, More than 10,000 attended the event, which was described by many as the largest since the end of World War II. Veasey himself served in the Army Reserves for nine years, achieving the rank of captain.
In the summer of 1993, floods ravaged Iowa and Missouri, and Veasey learned those states also had Marion counties. He launched the “Adopt Marion County” project and encouraged the community to support the drive, which collected more than 90 tons of food and supplies as well as $20,000.
And in 1998, Veasey watched with sadness as a bond issue which would fund a recreational soccer field failed at the polls. He immediately launched a project to gain support and collect money for the field. The result was the For the Kids Soccer Complex, which draws thousands of players, parents and fans each year.
“I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to do those things for the community over the years,” Veasey said. “I feel very blessed so many people seem to believe in me. I’m just an ordinary person. It’s the community that has done all of these things.”
For all that he’s done for the community, Veasey says that Fairmont and Marion County have offered him even more. Fairmont was at first just the city where he would start his career but very soon became his home and what he worked for each day that he came to the newspaper office.
Email Misty Poe at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @MistyPoeTWV.