Editor says farewell to Southwest Senior

Cheryl Fallstead with Col Ben Skardon
Southwest Senior editor Cheryl Fallstead with Col. Ben Skardon at his 100th birthday celebration at Clemson Universtiy
I met Keith Whelpley, the publisher of Southwest Senior, when I was a guest on his radio show over 10 years ago, less than a year after my husband, Brian, and I had relocated from California to Las Cruces. I was promoting February’s For the Love of Art Month and when I handed him my card, which stated that I was a freelance writer and editor, he mentioned that he was in the market for a new editor for this paper. So the adventure began.

When I think of all the things that happened in my life connected with that chance encounter, it seems preordained. When we moved here, my goals were to return to freelance writing after being an elementary school teacher and administrator in California for a dozen years, teach part time for the community college, and volunteer.

Goal one was started nicely with a few freelance assignments for local and national publications plus taking over as editor of the paper, which gave me the opportunity to write about subjects that interested me. My freelance writing, this time for American Profile magazine with subsequent articles in Southwest Senior and Las Cruces Magazine, led to a very important relationship with a remarkable man and his large group of friends and admirers: Bataan survivor Col. Ben Skardon. Many of my friends and I are now am part of Ben’s Brigade, which marches 8.5 miles with Col. Skardon each year at the Bataan Memorial Death March. This year my friend Ellen Castello and I attended Col. Skardon’s 100th birthday celebration at Clemson University and we plan to march with him again next spring.

When I started working with Keith on the paper, I realized I needed to learn more about the Adobe software we use to lay out the paper, so I signed up for classes at Doña Ana Community College. In little over a year, that led to an offer to teach in the Creative Media program, something I still do for DACC at Arrowhead Park Early College High School. Goal two accomplished.

Goal three was easy. Finding organizations for which to volunteer in Las Cruces is not challenging. What is hard is turning down opportunities! While now my volunteer efforts are invested with the Las Cruces Ukes as I explore my inner musician, I first volunteered for the Foundation for Las Cruces Museums, serving as president for five years. That’s where I met Bud Russo, a fellow writer who told me he enjoyed tramping about in the desert. Soon he became our travel writer. He and I worked together in a variety of capacities over the next decade. We had two radio shows together, Explore! New Mexico on a talk radio station and then New Mexico Mile Markers, two-minute segments which aired on public radio stations around the state. It was always fun to run into listeners who recognized our voices from the show.

He and I also served on the boards of the Las Cruces and New Mexico Press Women, professional organizations. We were both honored as the Communicator of Achievement, the organization’s highest award. Bud is also a member of Ben’s Brigade, marching alongside Col. Skardon.

With both Southwest Senior and our radio shows, we got to travel the state, both physically and simply by doing research for stories. We learned quickly that while for print stories you were good as long as you spelled a place name correctly, on the radio you had better say it correctly, too! We made a lot of phone calls to confirm how to pronounce the name of a community, certainly raising more than a few eyebrows. We learned a lot about the history and culture of our adopted state and had a lot of fun while doing it.

I’d like to believe that Southwest Senior has been a helpful vehicle for community information, provided entertainment and ideas for places to travel, and, since it is distributed to many doctors’ offices and hospitals, was something pleasurable to read to pass the time while waiting. It has been my pleasure to play a part in providing this publication to our community. I’m sad to see it go, but I’m sure this won’t be the end of goal number one. Watch for my byline in other publications and come to a performance of the Las Cruces Ukes. Be sure to say “hello!”