Matheny retiring after more than 30 years on the job
After more than 30 years working at the Madras Pioneer — from reporter to general editor — Susan Matheny will retire at the end of January.
The Pioneer will celebrate Matheny's contributions with a reception Friday, Feb. 1, from 2 to 4 p.m., at the Madras Pioneer office.
"I've enjoyed working, but now feel it's time to retire," said Matheny, 68, whose husband, Ron, is also retiring from a long career as mill superintendent at Central Oregon Seed Inc.
By the time she started working full time in May 1988, Matheny, who had two young children at home, had already been writing freelance articles for the paper for several years.
At that time, Matheny's husband was working nights, she said, adding, "I took (son) Marty and (daughter) Lisa to City Council meetings and they sat in the back and played checkers."
"In the beginning, when I had lots of time, I could spend a whole day on a story, and once drove to Maupin to do a story on the mill closure," she recalled. "I used to go over to the library a lot when there wasn't anything to do."
An early invitation to speak at the Madras Kiwanis caused angst for Matheny, who turned the offer down. "(Madras attorney) Paul Sumner wanted me to be a guest speaker at Kiwanis, to tell about what my plans were for the paper," she said. "I said, at this point, I have no idea what I'm doing."
A quiet person, Matheny found that when she was out in the community gathering news, she had a temporary infusion of self-confidence. "I'm shy personally, but in my role as reporter, that gave me the authority to talk to people," she said.
Although she considers herself a "liberal, pacifist, environmentalist," Matheny said, "I try to keep my personal feelings to myself; I completely separate my personal feelings from my reporting."
"I'm a peace activist, and I don't think war is the way to solve things, but I've interviewed and written about some 40 World War II veterans. I can understand how war was necessary in their time," she said, adding that listening to their stories and researching when and where they served "seemed like a big adventure."
Over the years, Matheny has specialized in features — on veterans, interesting people and places, education and agriculture. One of her favorite stories was a feature on model ship builder Paul Carter, "because of his funny and captivating personality."
"He was from Cornwall, England, and was one of the most interesting people I've ever interviewed," she said.
Another story that stood out was a story about the celebration of a community member's 15th birthday, called "Marlena's Quinceanera," where Matheny was able to photograph the whole event, "from her getting ready at her house, to the church ceremony and reception afterward."
Matheny fondly remembers a series she wrote during the 150th anniversary celebration of the Oregon Trail in 1993, "which featured the romantic stories of Jefferson County pioneers who came out on the Oregon Trail."
The popular "Vista" page she started is also a fond memory for Matheny, who enjoyed "getting to have my own 'Vista' page to do a feature story every week on whatever I wanted, and being my own editor."
During school years, she has particularly appreciated being invited to Madras High School plays and Kids Club talent shows, "where I got to experience what kids were interested in."
Matheny has regularly delved into stories that allowed her to research topics she's been curious about, "like causes of alcoholism; why men abuse women and who's offering programs to help men break that cycle; why people are homeless and how do you help them?"
There have also been stories and experiences that Matheny has tried to avoid, such as court trials, and governmental meetings, which she usually finds boring.
"I can't stand to hear about bad things," she said, recalling a trial she covered where a mother, who had been selling methamphetamine, was sentenced to prison in front of her crying children. "I got back to the office and broke down in tears."
The camaraderie in the newspaper office will be something that Matheny misses when she retires. "I've really enjoyed all the people that I've worked with; we're like family," she said, noting that she's worked with four news editors, two publishers, "and lots of sports guys."
When she is fully retired, she plans to spend more time with her family, including her daughter, Lisa, and her husband, Jon Leonard, and her four granddaughters in Ellensburg, Washington, and son, Marty, and his wife, Ariana, in Portland.
For now, she plans to continue the Great Decisions group she has organized since the early 1990s, which gets together to discuss the world. "I really enjoy learning about world affairs, and this forces me to do it," she said. "It's a fun group of people, and we learn about what's going on."
Matheny also intends to do more to help the environment. "I care about being a steward of the earth, and I'm worried about it," she said. "I'm going to focus on some of those things when I retire."