(Note: Mike Overall worked at our local newspaper, The Jonesboro Sun, for 32 years. He was my associate editor and friend for 10.)
I can still see you over there halfway across a smoke-filled newsroom incessantly beating on the desk with two pencils as if you were in some sultry jazz hall.
You were one of a kind, if I’ve ever seen it, sir.
Reading your newspaper column as a kid I often wondered who is that guy who uses all those words? He must be some kind of a professor or something. Overall Comments appeared in every Monday edition of The Jonesboro Sun. I read every word, every week.
Little did I know 10 years later you’d be my editor and boss.
Kindhearted, aloof, an organizational disaster, you’re the one who brought stability to a newsroom full of personalities as diverse as any place I’ve known. Amongst all the places I’ve called home in a career, no other has come close to that sense of family. You were the reluctant stepfather to us all.
What a pleasant gentleman of a man you were, Overall. A wonderful sense of humor with a laugh as genuine as sunshine. Book lover with a vocabulary that must have been in the top 1 percent. Movie buff. Story-teller. Musician. Chain smoker. General misfit. You belonged in another place where the night life and the music lived large into the wee hours. Jonesboro, Arkansas was never really your gig. How a man of your taste tolerated it here, I never understood.
And you had a special, unanticipated quality I’ll never forget.
On a November evening in 1992 we elected a governor from Arkansas the 42nd president of the United States. There were dozens of local race results equally as important to our 30,000 readers. The newsroom was in complete frenzy. Even your counterparts at the editor level were in chaos.
And from nowhere, you became this extraordinary calm in the storm. “Everybody just stop freaking out. It’s just another edition. We’re gonna get this newspaper out. Be cool,” you proclaimed. Was that really you, Mike? Did you just do that? Seriously, who was that guy?
Barely more than a month later in the earliest dark hours of a cold and foggy December morning we had an exchange I shall never forget.
As we walked into the hospital anticipating the birth of our son, you walked out having just lost your beloved mother. It was such a sweet exchange we shared. You offered such a heartening word.
Your illness was brutal and I’m so sorry for what you endured. Thank heavens you’re at peace. You are missed as few others.
Thank you for being such an anchor in one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve known.
A reader, admirer, and friend,