Published: 2:49 pm, Sun. Jan. 21st, 2018Updated: 2:47 pm
In 1955, a determined 9-year-old boy walked through the doors of the Artesia Daily Press and requested audience with then-circulation manager Harry Kelly.
Like many entrepreneurial-minded boys his age, Gary Dee Scott wanted a paper route. The only one available, however, was five miles long. Kelly doubted whether a youngster on a bicycle could handle that daily ride. He subsequently became the first of many at the Daily Press to learn Gary could handle just about anything to which he set his mind.
Gary Scott spent the next 55 years of his life working for the Daily Press. He retired in 2010 as the newspaper’s publisher and planned to enjoy the remainder of his life traveling with his wife of, at that time, 46 years, Gloria, and spending time with his children and grandchildren.
Unfortunately, fate had other plans. Gary became afflicted with dementia. The condition steadily advanced, and on Sunday, Jan. 14, he lost his battle.
Thursday, his family laid him to rest. They waited specifically for that day. Over the past few years, Gary had developed a habit of packing his suitcase – complete with snacks – and informing his family Jesus was coming to pick him up Thursday. The case sat, packed, alongside his casket.
Also displayed at the service were Gary’s bright-yellow Artesia Downtown Lions Club vest, which hung faithfully on a coat rack here at the Daily Press for many years, awaiting each Wednesday’s meeting, and a vintage Daily Press newspaper bag, just like the one he would have carried over the six years he held his paper route.
One of those bags didn’t make it, however… during his 2010 interview with former Daily Press staff writer Emil Whitis for the newspaper’s annual “Artesia” magazine, Gary recalled the story of the Cushman Highlander scooter he’d bought with his earnings – and its extremely hot muffler, on which his newspaper bag landed one day while he was completing his route.
The fire consumed both bag and scooter alike, but Gary was undeterred. He saved up and bought another. Adversity never held any sway in his life. Faster than a GPS unit, he’d recalculate, reroute, and start again.
It was that brand of work ethic that led Gary to be named assistant circulation manager in 1961, at the age of 15, and circulation manager two years later at 17.
His former paperboys remember him as a driven but kindhearted boss. He expected his 22 charges to be diligent in their work, which included expectations they sell subscriptions to add to the newspaper’s circulation. But he’d make the task fun, turning it into a contest, with the winners treated to Cokes and hot dogs, or sledding trips to Cloudcroft.
A driven but kindhearted boss is how we modern-day employees of the Daily Press remember Gary, as well.
He was an old-school businessman in the most impressive sense and a newspaperman through and through. While he typically left generating content to the editor, he’d occasionally arrive at that desk with a suggestion or two – one that, in the one-room confines of the Daily Press, said editor had already heard him tell the inquiring person at the counter he would “make personally sure was done.”
“Gary, gosh dang it, we’re already doing that!” my first editor, Harry Readel, would growl. “We took care of it, it’s going in the paper tomorrow!”
“Exactly,” Gary would say. “I said I would get you to get it done, and I did.”
Gary’s primary concern was advertising, the lifeblood of a newspaper. He’d been named advertising manager in 1969 and business manager in 1973 before settling into the role of publisher in 1985.
Longtime business owners remember well the sight of Gary making his way up and down Main Street, briefcase in hand. He understood the ad game required a personal connection, and as such, his customers knew and trusted him. He seemed to be holding a contest to outdo his own self each week, filling the paper with ads, stacking box after box on the front page to the point we’d occasionally have to remind him we needed a bit of space left over for the news.
“Advertising pays your salary!” he’d cheekily proclaim, a large smile on his face. Still, Harry finally had to draw the line – at no more than halfway up the front page for box ads. Gary would have gleefully filled it to the top.
And while there were no hot dogs or sledding trips on offer for Gary’s one-man contest, there were Cokes. One of his favorite weekly tasks was emptying the soda machine in the press room of its bounty. I’ll never forget the sound of him jingling like Santa’s sleigh through the building.
There was also candy. I made sure of that.
New to the job and eager to bring a little joy to my coworkers, I maintained a laden candy dish on my desk. And at no small personal expense, as keeping said dish laden was a monumental task.
Full to the brim one afternoon, I’d arrive the next morning to find it empty. I’d sneak into Gary’s office and open his desk drawer… sure enough, there it was.
“He’s like a squirrel!” I told my coworkers. They agreed, having seen everything from pens to notepads to the snacks they were saving for later in the break-room fridge disappear at the hands of the elusive Gary.
It became a game to try to keep him out of the candy, one I couldn’t win. He’d walk briskly past from the press room to his office, snatching a piece or two without breaking stride. When a dish would disappear, I’d follow the trail of wrappers to his desk. “Gary?” “Nope, wasn’t me,” he’d laugh.
My favorite associated memory was watching him fling several pieces off his desk into another room one afternoon when Gloria made an unexpected visit; he knew he wasn’t supposed to be indulging, but he couldn’t help himself.
Another favorite: One morning, it was so cold Gary actually drove to his starting sales point a few blocks down Main rather than walking. But the temperature had warmed by the time he’d finished his duties, and, a creature of habit, he walked back to the paper – where, a few hours later, we found him bolting through the door in a panic, convinced someone had stolen his car.
Gary taught us much. He was incredibly dedicated, to his family, his daily walks around Artesia, and this newspaper. He was the perfect mix of serious employer and mischievous friend. He’d aggravate us to no end one day, then arrive the next with a party platter from La Fonda, always sincere about making sure we knew he appreciated us and the work we were doing.
I know we all fervently hope he knew we felt the same way.
The Daily Press’ heartfelt condolences are with the Scott family in their time of loss. Thank you for sharing him with us for all those years. This place would not be the same had he not passed through it. And we would not be the same had he not passed through our lives.