Not Older. Just Better.

It’s with a heavy heart I sit down to pen my column in this edition. As I was sipping coffee and preparing to wrap up this issue – our biggest yet – I learned via social media my good friend Ron Shannon, whose byline you may have seen in the pages of past issues, has passed away after a short battle with cancer.

I started percolating ideas for what I wanted to say in this space a few weeks ago when my assistant editor, Hayley, and I settled on the cover image and the theme for this edition.

I wanted to mention this issue is all about new and evolving local businesses, and I was planning to pair that information with the fact that we’re celebrating our first birthday as a print publication.

My late grandmother, Eleanor Jean Allen, had a saying about birthdays. “Every birthday is a gift from God,” she’d say when asked if she found her own steady march of years alarming.

She and my grandfather, Carl, were given exactly 65 “gifts from God” before they were tragically taken from us in a tornado in 1996. Nearly 20 years later, I still get a lump in my throat just typing that, but I take comfort in the knowledge my grandparents loved life, and lived every moment of those 65 years to the fullest.

I could share so many memories about my grandparents; they were remarkable people who were loved by many, evidenced by the fact their joint funeral was standing room only. Not only were they cherished by others, their love for each other was obvious in both large and small ways.

Theirs was a love story that began when they were only 12, when my grandfather first noticed my grandmother playing with her dolls on the front porch of her parents’ house. Theirs was a tale of romance punctuated by moments like the time my grandmother had a sweatshirt airbrushed for my grandfather’s 60th birthday that read “Not Older, Just Better.”

Not older, just better, like so many of the people and places featured in this edition. New commercial enterprises melded with stories of people in the process of reinventing themselves. It’s not about the number of years they’ve been established but rather the burst of energy they bring to their respective ventures. It’s about their passion and zest for making their communities better places.

Not older, just better, just as we are at Pennsylvania Bridges. You may have noticed this edition feels slightly heavier in your hands than the last. Over the past year, we’ve steadily increased the number of pages, the quality of the paper we’re printed on, and the scope of our coverage. We’ve welcomed new and veteran contributors and expanded our distribution. Your response, dear readers, has been tremendous, and as we celebrate our first birthday, we’d be remiss if we didn’t say “Thank you!”

In conclusion, however, I’d like to shift focus back to the tragic loss of Ron Shannon. Ron was a terrific guy who always had a kind, encouraging word for everyone. He was also a talented and prolific writer whose books I’m proud to have on my bookshelf. We met as fellow students in the Writing Popular Fiction MFA program and subsequently at alumni events. When my thesis novel, The Heart Absent, was published, he was one of the first people to read it and write a glowing review. When he learned I had started a publication, he was quick to offer to write for it, and never shirked at any assignment. It is to his memory and his spirit I’d like to dedicate this edition. He was my constant cheerleader, and I’m going to miss him so very much.

Until next time, Carla E. Anderton