BRUNSWICK — Change. There is a word and a concept that means something all together different to just about everyone. Some take change in stride, while others fight change to their bitter core.

In my 54 years, I have fought change, though I must admit I have faced a lot of changes.

When I was 18, a U.S. Navy recruiter came to my Pennsylvania home that I shared with my mother and grandparents to take me away to basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois. Boy, was that a change that I wasn’t ready for, especially when the company commander came barreling into our sleep area, bashing a trash can to wake us up after two hours of sleep for a run before the sun had risen, forcing me to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

However, things turned out well, as I spent 20 years in the Navy before I retired in 2004. My final tour of duty brought me to Brunswick Naval Air Station. For some odd reason, my wife, two young children and I decided to make Maine our home. I think it was because I didn’t want to make a major move. There is that “change” thing again.

What followed was 15 years working in the sports department at The Times Record. Here I met a wonderful group of professionals as I began my transition to the “civilian” world — as us sailors like to say when leaving the service. Despite being a journalist in the Navy, I was raw when it came to the differences in writing styles.

Referring back to change. In my life, there have been quite a few, all of which I fought, with my wife of 29-plus years, Brenda, telling me to relax. She would say, “change is good.”

Now comes another big change for me. Back in January, my mother passed away at the age of 73. Brenda and I had spoken a few times about what we would do if this happened, with me oftentimes shying away from the subject as even thinking of such a tragic event was something I wasn’t prepared to do.

But, we always knew that when/if this happened my address would revert back to where I started out from before I went off to the Navy, in a little town called Plum (yes, the purple fruit).

So, it is with much sadness that I depart from a place that has treated me rather well. My boys are now 25 and 21 — grown men — and we are returning to my “home.” For the first time in some 35 years, I will have family close by, cousins that I have remained close to all these years, but still at a distance as my travels took me all over the world and eventually to the “Vacation State.”

I will get to see the Pittsburgh Steelers play on Sundays, attend a Pittsburgh Pirates game at PNC Park (I still haven’t been in that building), and be able to go to my favorite hometown restaurant.

There are so many to thank for this last decade and a half at The Times Record. I have worked for some superb editors who taught me so much, alongside reporters who work hard every single day to bring our readers the most up-to-date news. Our staff has been, and still is, small, but the work that goes into putting out a quality product five days a week is unmatched in my opinion.

The biggest joy for myself was covering sporting events. I said to Brenda recently that when I started at The Times Record in January 2005, those athletes I interviewed, took pictures of and wrote about were high school or Bowdoin College students, young teenagers or 20-somethings still trying to find their way in this difficult world.

Now, those young men and women have reached their thirties. They are doctors, lawyers, nurses, out there defending our country in the military, business leaders, and many have children of their own now who will one day shine on the gridiron, court, ice, pitch and track just like their parents did years ago.

It must be said, one of the greatest things for this sports reporter is watching an athlete grow, from an unsure freshman to a senior leader. You watch these kids mature, get to know some that you have been lucky enough to interview. Those I have spoken to will hopefully say I helped them along during an interview. Most youngsters find it unnatural to talk about themselves or answer the tough questions after a devastating loss. But I think we managed well.

When I head toward a bench and tell the coach I want to talk to a certain athlete, their teammates rib them a bit. But things usually turn out great. Having done this job for a bit, I now have adults coming up to me at a game, describing the time we first met, when I stuck a recorder in front of them and went about the business of sports reporting.

And have I been blessed to work with such wonderful coaches, role models who take their time to mold young athletes into a cohesive unit. I have been on the sidelines when championships were won and dreams were answered. I saw heartbreak when things didn’t go to plan — followed by a coach gathering his team, reminding them to stay classy, knowing one day they will look back on their time in high school as a gift.

The unsung heroes of any high school program is the athletic director. During the three high school sports seasons, ADs are often the first ones in and the last ones to go home after a night of contests. Jeff Ramich, Geoff Godo, Nate Priest, Craig Sickels, Eric Hall, Warren Cossette and Jon Spear, along with those that came before them, made my life so much easier.

In closing, I know our lives changed quite a bit over these last few months thanks to COVID-19. For me, not being able to cover one more sports season was difficult, as I wanted to see firsthand how Lisbon would follow up its baseball title, how well Morse softball would continue to grow, or the changes to Brunswick boys lacrosse after longtime coach and friend Don Glover retired. There were certainly many stories that I didn’t get to do in my final spring season in the Midcoast thanks to the coronavirus.

In the past few days, I have heard from coaching legends like former Bowdoin College men’s hockey coach Terry Meagher, and Brunswick High School golf coach Mal Strange. I will miss their friendship.

I wish each of you good health. COVID-19 will one day be under control and our lives will return to what they once were. I thank you for these 15 years. I will always remember how you took me in and trusted me to tell your story.

BOB CONN was the Sports Editor of The Times Record.

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