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Letter from the Editor: A Star sendoff

Church alley: Allegheny Avenue in Port Richmond is home to three iconic churches, all within a couple blocks of each other, earning it the nickname ”church alley.” MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

In a career that has required me to be succinct with words – all right, I like to paint a picture sometimes – I find myself not able to find the right ones.

When I took on the position as editor in October 2015, I found myself spending hours brainstorming about the perfect introductory Letter from the Editor. I thought that would be my magnum opus, nothing ever to transcend it.

But, here I sit nearly seven years later – not counting the two I spent as a freelancer and then reporter – trying to craft a different letter, but arguably as important.

So, here goes nothing.

I’m stepping down as editor at the Star.

In fact, because of our Monday print deadline, I will have already written and submitted my final content by the time you read this.

I’ve been pondering this decision for a while.

That has not made it any easier.

But, as my family continued to grow, I found myself not being able to dedicate the time and effort I once did to this 40-year-old-plus, award-winning publication.

And, dedicate myself I did.

I considered myself a “transplant” to the paper, having interned and then freelanced for the now defunct competitor newspaper, The Spirit, but in no way did that diminish my passion or loyalty for Star.

I’m the third generation to be raised in the River Wards, and I remember excitedly snatching the paper off our doorstep all the way back in high school and dreaming of the day I might see my byline on the cover.

Fast forward to 2013, three years after graduating from college and still doing freelance work for The Spirit and The Juanita News and there was a call for freelance work from former editor Mikala Jamison.

I jumped at the opportunity and in December 2013, one of my first pieces, the section of Richmond Street in front of Bridesburg Rec being dedicated as Miss Jackie’s Way, was published.

I continued to freelance for the paper and eventually became the reporter, but was passed over twice before I got my shot at the top position.

I still remember my first issue as editor.

It was one of the largest page counts we’d had in awhile, at 40-plus pages, and Roman Catholic High School soccer team had won only its second Catholic League championship title in history.

I was at the Bensalem office well after the official deadline.

And despite the Star being only a staff of two writers, myself included, the Northeast Times staff, one of our sister publications, had just as much a hand in putting together the paper each week.

Without their time and skills, I would have drowned and you would not have gotten  a paper that week.

And, it was like that for many weeks since.

I could never thank any of them enough for all they did for me and more importantly, the Star, every single issue.

I also could not have succeeded without all the other talented writers who have been part of the team since my time here, most recently Star reporter Joe DiProsperos.

Joe will continue to serve as reporter, and I hope you continue to trust him as I have to bring fair and unbiased news coverage to the River Wards.

My former editor, Julie Zeglen, was and is a star in her own right.

I still remember covering the Riverfront North Partnership Spring Fling on the evening of May 14, 2015.

My best friend since grade school has a term for everything that ensued: Mike Schmidt Magic.

I covered the meeting, six days away from my due date, but went into labor shortly after 1 a.m. on May 15.

I also met Mike Schmidt, the former standout third baseman for the Phillies, hours before.

I texted Julie, telling her I would transcribe the story after I gave birth.

I put my recorder, which I purchased in 2010 and still use today, in my bag with all intentions of getting that story in before deadline.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t get it in.

Julie picked up my recorder once we got home and she wrote the story.

Mike Schmidt Magic.

I can never thank her enough for giving me the creative leeway she did, providing constructive feedback to enhance my writing, and for recommending me for the editor position.

And, for letting me bring my breastfeeding newborn to our weekly meetings when I returned to work.

That newborn, Max, quickly became my sidekick, strapped in his B’jorn to my chest as I covered ribbon cuttings for trails and revitalized playgrounds.

He also became the Star of my former mommy column, Max’s Corner.

I cherished the ability to be able to work in a neighborhood I grew up in and share the same experiences with my son. 

But, as Max gained sisters, I found myself dedicating myself more to my role as mom than to the Star.

Although I will always have the “Star running through my veins,” as former infamous ad rep Patti Star once said, it’s time for me to put down my pen for now and let someone take over who can put in the time and energy that the paper and the people deserve.

It’s these people that I’ll miss the most.

It’s never been lost on me the unique position I’ve had in the community, being able to get an insider perspective and be part of something so special.

You’ve given me a behind-the-scenes tour in your home to view your decades-long Christmas decorating traditions, recounting where each item was purchased or who gave it to you.

You’ve given me T-shirts commemorating playground reopenings, veterans’ organizations and a grassroots adolescent pretzel business.

You’ve given me a seat at your dining room table to tell me the heartbreaking story about the Philly justice system failing your family in the wake of your son’s and brother’s murder on Thanksgiving.

It’s my hope that my words in print have given you all a voice in the neighborhoods I’ve called home since entering the world at the old Northeastern Hospital on Allegheny Avenue more than 34 years ago.

And, while I’m no longer in the River Wards and you’ll no longer see my byline, the Star, and Philly for that matter, is more than a physical copy hitting your steps each week.

It’s a mentality, like the Bridesburg Memorial Day parade being the kickoff to summer and soft pretzels and Arctic Splashes from the corner store, and Stock’s at your table for every birthday.

It’s something that can’t be confined to a deadline or print.

It’s something that, sometimes, can’t be expressed with words.

And, it’s something that I will carry with me always.

Signing off for the last time as the Star editor,

                                                                                                      Melissa Komar

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