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Holly Gill is retiring after 22 years; reception 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22 at Pioneer office

SUSAN MATHENY/FOR THE PIONEER - Holly Gill, the Madras Pioneer's managing editor, will retire at the end of November. A reception for Gill will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22.Madras Pioneer Managing Editor Holly Gill is retiring at the end of the month, following a 22-year career working for two publishers and two different companies.

The public is invited to come to her retirement reception from 2 to 4 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22, at the Pioneer, to visit, enjoy cake and coffee and wish her well.

Gill grew up in Baker City, where she was editor of her high school paper, and she also wrote a series of travel columns for the Baker Democrat Herald. At Oregon State University, she majored in French, with minor studies in journalism and art. Her summers were spent working as a fire lookout on Lookout and Bald mountains near Baker City.

Graduating with a degree in French, but interested in reporting, Gill heard about a job opening in Madras, interviewed and was hired by publisher Mike Williams.

Arriving in December 1979, age 21, and low on funds, she found the rental selection was scarce. "I found a place at Tops Trailer Park because it was cheap," she said.

Her "beat" was covering law enforcement, school board meetings, school activities and Kiwanis meetings. After writing stories, she and Williams hand-cut and pasted the columns of copy on pages, which were taken to the printing press in Prineville.

Gill was a meticulous researcher and proofreader, and staff members recalled with amusement how she would follow the publisher, still trying to make corrections as he was carrying the pages out the door.

She also was known as a fashionable dresser whose nails and hair were well kept. So when the paper returned from the printer and everyone had to help stuff inserts, Gill wore a pair of rubber gloves, while everyone else's hands got smudged with printer's ink.

Several major news events were covered by Gill during her first stint, including the arrival of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his Rajneeshee followers at the Big Muddy Ranch, and its impact on Madras.

"I basically broke that story. They (the Rajneeshees) came and spoke at the Kiwanis, and I wrote a lot of stories about them. Sheela would call and invite me to things. I went to events in Rajneeshpuram and took lots of photos of them," she said, adding, "I did a big article on their education system for the Oregonian." (Gill was also a correspondent for the Oregonian from 1980 to 1987.)

One news jaunt involved a close call, when she and Williams hired a plane and flew over Mount St. Helens to take photos the day before its cataclysmic eruption on May 18, 1980.

In 1982, she married forester Bob Gill and wrote a travel piece for the paper on their honeymoon trip to Washington, D.C., and the northeastern states. After becoming pregnant with their first child, she kept reporting until her due date in April 1985.

The next 18 years were spent raising their four children, Chase, Carter, Kelsey and Turner, along with seven years of substitute teaching, and a year of teaching French at Madras High School.

In 2003, Gill was persuaded to return to the Pioneer by publisher Tony Ahern. By then, the newspaper had become all computerized, and digital cameras had replaced film.

Her new beat was covering city council, county commission, court proceedings, designing the front page, and proofreading everything.

Things changed in 2013 when Eagle Newspapers sold the Pioneer to Pamplin Media Group. "(With Pamplin) we were required to post on the website, Facebook, and do tweeting every day, and that's been a challenge. It's not as simple as it was when I first started," Gill said.

But being a reporter also had its perks, such as getting free rides in a helicopter, hot air balloons and a B-17 bomber. "We get to do things to show others what it's like," she explained.

She also enjoyed getting to know area senators and congressmen through repeated interviews. "It's been fascinating, and I have an opportunity to explain their ideas and opinions to others," Gill said.

Some of the most difficult issues Gill covered included the Measure 37 filings. (Passed in 2004, Measure 37 had the state waive land use regulations or compensate people for their land. It was later revised.)

"Measure 37 took up a significant portion of a couple years. I had a folder 3 inches thick," she said of her research. The spotted frog issue, which is ongoing, is another important piece she tracked and reported on.

"I've always enjoyed being at the office and the people I work with. I like attending meetings and interacting with the people, and attending community events like the Chamber Banquet and Air Show of the Cascades," she said.

Gill admitted she won't miss "deadlines, and working all night every Monday, and writing editorials that express my political views."

Her husband will also be retiring in December, and they plan to travel, visit grandkids, enjoy outdoor activities, reconnect with church, and do some volunteering. She would like to get back into art, and maybe write a book or two.

Reflecting over her years of reporting, Gill is impressed with the positive changes in the Madras community, in which she intends to stay active.

"Most changes have occurred in the last 16 years, and have improved the way the city looks. When I returned to the Pioneer, the city was just starting to envision what it wanted — a swimming pool, theater, hotel with large meeting room, and getting rid of blight. They've achieved all of that, and removed city hall and the old courthouse out of the floodway — it's a huge deal," she observed.

A fan of the recent "First Thursday" events, Gill added, "It's exciting to see a group of younger businesspeople out and working on ways to get more people downtown."


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