Last week was my first extended vacation away from the Express. I was quite apprehensive at first, but as the week went on, it was rather nice to have the time off.
It’s not that I didn’t trust Pete Temple to take the reins for a few days. Once you get in work mode, your life schedule revolves around work obligations. It’s hard after four years to step away for a week and leave the editor duties to someone else. I was constantly reminded that Pete had done the job many times before, as the Express went through hiring an editor here and there in the past.
So, I relented and tried to stay away from the office. (I did pop in a few times throughout the week.) As you can see from this week’s issue, everything turned out fine. The Monticello Express survived without me, not that I had any doubt.
While off from work, I did attend an amazing event sponsored by IGNITE, Jones County Young Professionals, held at the high school.
Aaron Thomas, son of the late Ed Thomas, spoke about his father’s legacy in their small community of Parkersburg. Ed Thomas was the head football coach for Aplington-Parkersburg High School when he was shot and killed by a former football player.
Hearing Aaron’s words of remembrance about his father and watching the short videos he played for the audience were enough to bring me to tears. Sitting in the front row next to our Sports Editor and surrounded by the Coggon Fire Department, I wanted to be brave, but the Thomas family’s story is just so touching!
Thomas spoke about the importance of being a part of your community and taking pride in what you do and where you live. He said his father was not only the head football coach, but also a friend and father figure to so many. Aaron said that was evident by the amount of people who showed up for Ed’s wake and funeral.
With IGNITE sponsoring the event, Aaron praised Jones County for having a young professionals organization.
“Young Professionals is a great organization to have and connect with in your community,” he said.
With his father receiving so much national attention with the devastating EF5 tornado in 2008 that hit Parkersburg and his death a year later in 2009, Aaron said all of the fame never changed his father’s outlook on life.
“He took pride in his small town of Iowa,” said Aaron. “He had a passion for A-P and would tell anyone who would listen.”
After the tornado ripped through their hometown, it was Ed Thomas who spoke to the national press about cleaning things up and moving forward. Aaron said when Ed was killed, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and legacy and speak to the press. He said his father wouldn’t want him to ask for sympathy, but rather ask for prayers for the Becker family as well. (Mark Becker, a former A-P football player, was charged in the death of Ed Thomas.)
In one of the videos Aaron showed during his talk, the Becker family was brought to tears at the kindness of the Thomas family during their loss. While the entire community and school district paid their respects to the Thomas family, Ed’s widow, Jan, asked everyone to keep the Becker family in their prayers as well.
After the tornado and Ed’s death, the community came out in full swing to help in any way they could under both situations. Aaron said that is the mark of a small town/community. People just come out to support their neighbors in any way they can.
Aaron said he speaks at many venues and events all over the country, and each time he reminds himself to keep Parkersburg in his heart.
“Remember to take Monticello with you wherever you go,” he said to the full auditorium. He said towns like Monticello are full of people who care about others and take pride in their communities and their schools.
“That make us special here in Iowa,” he said. “There’s a sense of community at a level that I’ve never seen before.”
Through his life, his children’s lives and in public, Aaron said he wants to lead by example, modeling his motto after his father.
“You never forget where you came from,” he said, something Ed Thomas spoke of every day. “Don’t let that one thing impact the rest of your life. Step back and look at how blessed you are.”
Of all the speakers and events such as this that I have attended or covered for the Express, Aaron Thomas’ speech and presence in that auditorium definitely stood out for me! His message of being a leader in your community, making the world a better place, and taking pride in what you do and how you live your life will stay with me.
After the event, days later, I would see and hear people praise Ignite for bringing Aaron Thomas to town. His speech resonated with everyone that evening. I don’t think there was anyone in that auditorium who didn’t feel empowered after Aaron’s words of wisdom!