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Darrell will be missed

September 30, 2002|by DAVE ELLIOTT

The Lord works in small ways. A kind word. A friendly act. An honest day's work. For the 18 years I knew Darrell Kepler, I saw the Lord work in him, in these ways, every day.

When Darrell called me in late August 1984 to offer a job with the sports department of The Herald-Mail, he threw me a bit of a curve.

"Dave, I'm afraid I have some bad news," he said. Before my heart sunk too low, he quickly laughed, then passed on the good news. He had that sense of humor, and was as quick to laugh at himself as at the events of the world around.

Add "a dose of humility" to the list above.

Darrell passed away Saturday. When he did, a piece of The Herald-Mail went with him.

If you've worked at any one place as long as I have, you know there are people who define the very essence of the company. When they're top-notch folks like Darrell, they come to represent so much of what's good about an organization so much of what makes you loves the place.

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When they go away, it's as if they leave a physical hole in their wake. We'll all be feeling that in the days ahead.

The word that most readily comes to mind when thinking of Darrell is "solid." A solid friend. A solid father. A solid news man.

He was one of those folks so valuable to the newsroom, you felt he could put the entire paper out by himself if need be and he almost once did, trudging through the Blizzard of '96 to help us publish an edition.

A good deal of the impression he left on me was built in the time I worked for him. And, strange as it still seems, that time was only a few months.

In February of 1985, Darrell left the sports department to take a copy-editing job on The Daily Mail staff. The daytime hours better enabled him to raise his two young sons, which he was doing alone at the time. Darrell hated leaving sports, but his boys came first.

Those first six months were something like a dream.

Getting the sports section out can be a bit of a frantic proposition, with late calls, computer difficulties, extra innings, deadlines, etc. But, when Darrell was at the helm, things were always under control. In the history of supervision, no one's ever been able to lead with the degree of calm he did.

Among his staff - myself, Doug Dull and John McNamara - it was often joked that the Monday Night Football game would end at 12:10 in the morning, and by 12:15 we'd all be at the Antietam Tavern having a beer. Darrell was that good at getting the section out.

And, if a caller rang in at midnight to complain about yesterday's Little League coverage, or your girlfriend had just jilted you, Darrell had time to listen to that, too. He was one of those remarkable people who always made you feel like your news was the most important thing in the world.

Over the last year, Darrell handled his illness the way he handled most everything else - a touch of humor, a positive attitude, a selflessness that found him more apt to worry about his sons, Ben and Brian, and his wife, Deb, than himself.

Somewhere along the line, you see, Darrell figured out so much of what this life's really about. Thank God he was willing to share it with us.

Dave Elliott is the Human Resource director of The Herald-Mail. You can reach him at 301-733-5131, extension 7496, or by e-mail at davee@herald-mail.com.

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