Nice work, chief ...


A golf coach called Friday looking to track down a Vindy staffer who had called him.

“Why is she not on the website with an email address?”

I teased that there are many Vindicator people behind the scenes whose names won’t stick with you nor are they listed anywhere.

Officially, there are a couple hundred folks making your Vindicator work for you every day. Of them, there might be four names that you know from all the text we create and paper we deliver.

One of those folks behind the scenes was Matt Arnold. He endeavored to make your paper work for you.

Your front page of The Vindy was often Matt’s front page. His five workdays per week were spent making the Vindy front page. When you watched prime-time TV or the late-night news, Matt and many colleagues were at work until after midnight putting the finishing touches on your newspaper before a host of printers and delivery people did their jobs until 6 a.m. or so. After them, the cycle starts all over again for the next Vindy.

If you laughed or smirked at a headline, it was likely Matt’s. That was his knack, and he was awarded as Ohio’s best several times.

That we won’t benefit from those headlines only begins to tell the loss we feel after a battle with cancer took Matt last week at age 53.

While he quietly did his work, he actively supported and cheered us in many ways, including me.

Of my work that you read here, I’d count Matt as one of my biggest supporters. A handful of weeks per year, time availability and a key issue collide, and I am able to elevate my game a bit in this field of commentary where others are much better.

Before any readers got a chance to send a nice word or two, Matt would chime in with a simple and stoic text to me:

“Nice work, chief.”

Those texts did not come every week – deservedly so. Our work is not all home runs and touchdowns, right?

So when Matt’s texts did come, I knew my work struck a level and a chord above my other work.

One time, Matt’s text went a bit longer.

It was a Memorial Day weekend some years ago when I reflected on the death of my brother. He died on a Memorial Day weekend some years ago.

Matt shared his experience with loss and coping. The texting went on for a bit as we each unfurled more of our personal tales – how? when? cope? blame?

That’s where Matt’s passing lingers just a bit more for us.

I’m not the most godly person, and when I hear sayings such as “God’s will,” I shrug wondering if anyone really knows what that means or if it’s just an easy way to justify or excuse.

Some people get more than they deserve – good or bad.

Matt endured more bad than seems fair.

His daughter, Jennifer, died as a sixth-grader in 2003. Such episodes can get the best of people and families, and it tested Matt for many years. But he battled through. His Vindy night team around him was unflinching in support.

He found new life and new love. His life victories after his daughter’s death were tragically rewarded with a cancer battle.

He won that battle. Once. After a few years in remission, it came back last winter.

He worked through the first reports – shaken but still serving. He then went on leave to battle cancer once again.

Some colleagues might have feared it would be the last we’d see him. I didn’t. He’d won so many battles. I have no memory of last seeing him because I didn’t expect it to be such.

It was.

In Monday’s paper, co-workers will take space in section A – Matt’s section – to share a bit of Matt. He wasn’t an elected official; nor a millionaire businessman. He walked more softly than he spoke – if that was even possible. But he grinned as long as the Mahoning River. More days than not, he was a key force in the shadows delivering your daily Vindicator. And just like that, at age 53, he’s not.

He was a rich soul who encountered more battles than one should have. Whatever of that turbulence was God’s supposed will, hopefully he rewarded Matt with a reunion with Jen.

He earned it. Nice work, chief.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes e-mails about stories and our newspaper. E-mail him at tfranko@vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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