Editor Column: Saying goodbye to 2015 | PostIndependent.com

Editor Column: Saying goodbye to 2015

What a year it’s been … or has it?

The past month has posed several instances that forced me to reflect on the year that was 2015. The first came in early December when I sat down with Mary Lee Mohrlang for her weekly public affairs show on KSUN radio. I truly enjoy doing Mary Lee’s show. Unlike other interviews that cause some slight anxiety, her show feels less like work and more like spending a half hour with a friend.

She asked about some of my favorite stories, and least favorite stories during my time here at The Citizen. In asking the question, she mentioned the story about Bradley Skinner — a young man from Texas whose greatest wish in life was to ride his horse, Kansas. The family traveled to Parachute to seek help from renowned horse trainer, John Lyons.

Spending a Sunday afternoon with the two families and watching Bradley go on his first extended ride on Kansas was a moving experience, and it definitely makes the list.

I made my start in journalism as a straight news reporter looking for hard hitting stories. Through that early journey, I lacked an appreciation for human stories, like Bradley’s, but during my time here, those stories have proven to be some of my favorites. Unlike the traditional news stories, these features are often emotional, both for the subjects involved and, if I’m being honest, myself as well.

There also was no shortage of news here in western Garfield. You can find a recap on some of those stories in the Dec. 31 edition of the Post Independent. In this space I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of my favorite human-interest stories during my time here.

Without further ado, here are three of the other features that truly moved me:

Defying the status quo

Quincey Snyder was a Rifle High junior on vacation in Mexico when she sustained an injury that would forever change her life. However, you would not know it by spending time with her.

When I met up with Quincey in late April and early May, she was 23 and had recently launched her own brand of athletic shoes — an impressive feat for anyone at that age.

The accomplishment was all the more impressive, even if Quincey did not want to dwell on it, considering doctors had told her family that the best they could hope for was that she would shrug her shoulders one day.

Arriving at the family’s home around 5 a.m. for her morning workout, it was very apparent that Quincey is doing a little more than shrugging her shoulders. This story, perhaps more so than any other I’ve reported, sparked a sense of respect and awe in the power of human determination.

Striving to make her slain mom proud

Veronica Toscano-Santoyo was just 4 years old when her mother, Angelica Toscano, was gunned down in the most heinous recorded atrocity in Rifle.

It was 2001 and in the end seven people were shot and four died. Flash forward to this past spring, and Veronica was walking across the stage at Rifle High’s graduation ceremony.

Standing behind the stage taking photos, I could see the smile on her face and near elation in her eyes. She was the second in her family to ever graduate high school.

Sitting in the living room of her grandmother’s home several weeks later, Veronica shared her story and her feelings on growing up without a mother and accomplishing what so few in her family had.

On a sidenote, when my grandfather died around the age of 80, it served as a sort of coffin in the nail for my uncle — the straw the broke his back. He became homeless, and to this day my family is not sure whether or not he is alive. Enduring the death of a loved one can cripple even the strongest of us. Listening to Veronica, I can still remember holding back tears and wondering how somebody so young could be so strong and process an outlook far more mature than her 18 years.

She can gut (and stuff) a deer as well as any man

Marianne Alameno-Stanek may be one of the area’s most highly regarded taxidermist — a profession not densely populated by women.

She embraces that fact as a badge of honor, although it is frustrating at points, she said earlier this fall. Aside from the business side of the job, Marianne views being a taxidermist as a social opportunity, a way to make friends and lasting relationships.

After spending a couple hours with her, I can say definitively that Marianne is truly a kind person. Wathcing her work was like watching an artist paint a masterpiece, and it was second only to watching our former photographer Colleen O’Neil’s face.

Ryan Hoffman is ready to ring in the new year. You can reach him at 970-685-2103 or at rhoffman@citizentelegram.com.

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