Reporter’s Notebook: Two friends rest in peace

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Two friends of mine died last week.

Dixie Redfearn

On Thursday, July 22, I learned my former editor Dixie Redfearn had died.

Dixie made my life better.

Dixie taught journalism long before she served as an editor of the Sun. She taught me better note taking. More importantly, she made me a more relaxed person.

I used to have 10 anxiety attacks a day.

Then I met Dixie Redfearn. She changed the way I worked at the office. Now I’m down to three or four anxiety attacks a month.

We liked some of the same writers.

She passed away last week, concluding a long fight with cancer.

Whenever I saw her, she was always smiling; always facing cancer with a good attitude, grace and dignity.

I’ll miss you, Dixie. I hope you’ll forgive me for spending some extra time with another friend.

 

Jeffrey Edward Mitchell

On Sunday, July 25, I learned that my friend for the past 34 years Jeff Mitchell had passed away about six days prior. That explained why he didn’t respond to my last six text messages. I still have our text exchanges going back to July 2020.

I kept thinking about Jeff during Monday’s Seal Beach City Council meeting. Jeff would have said that was unprofessional. True, that.

We stayed in touch after college. Little by little, each of us lost touch with most our other college friends. I don’t know what bound us, but we exchanged advice, concerns, and jabs for 34 years. The jabs made me laugh. I reread some of the affectionate insults after I learned he was gone. We met in 1987 in the newsroom of the Daily Forty-Niner newspaper, in those days located in a basement we called “The Dungeon.” Randa Cardwell, our editor, said there was a file in the chemistry building. She pointed at each of us, “You and you. Go.”

We ran to the building. It turned out that the fire itself wasn’t newsworthy. The fleeting flames left a scorch mark about the size of a quarter on a table. More importantly, the first fire extinguisher brought to the fight didn’t work. Good thing the second fire extinguisher worked.

Every lead I followed proved to be a dead end. Every lead Jeff followed turned to another lead. We returned to the newsroom. A prank call led me on a wild goose chase. Jeff spoke with genuinely useful sources. He got the byline.

That day set the tone for our relationship.

We were once attracted to the same stunning brunette classmate. Fortunately, she was too smart to be interested in either of us.

I impressed Jeff only once, that I know of, with an in-depth story about gangs and religion for a special section of the Forty-Niner.

One day, due to a printer’s error, all the reporting staff of the Forty-Niner had to become circulation workers and redistribute stacks of the DFN on campus. Jeff put stacks on the hood of his car and had me hold them in place as I walked alongside the car. Jeff then slowly increased the pressure on the gas pedal until I couldn’t keep up. And wrote about it in the paper. (Another time, I helped the photographers prank him.)

In Spring 1988, Jeff lobbied for me to get either money or an award to mark my service to the college paper. The plaque, now time-worn, adorns my workstation. Just as well I didn’t get the money. Plaques last (awhile), money doesn’t.

When my first journalism job ended, I thought my career was over. Jeff regularly nagged at me to restart my career from the early 1990s until 2009, when I got it back.

One day in the 1990s, I was talking about an enchanting brunette acquaintance and Jeff said: “Oh. My. God. You’re in love! You have feelings like a person!”

(The annoying part: I might not have known if he hadn’t told me.)

I once let him stay with me for several months when he was seeking a new job. He worked eight hours a day to find work. Living together strained the friendship until a Northern California newspaper hired him. I was delighted to lend him the money to relocate.

During the last couple of years, he urged me to plan for my old age. He didn’t approve of my fondness for salt, sugar, meat, and coffee.

Jeff was the kind of guy to get promoted twice in six months and then complain to everyone that he wasn’t getting promoted quickly enough. I once yelled at him to enjoy his success while it lasted.

Nothing lasts. Not insults. Not advice. Not text messages.

I’ll miss you, Jeffster.

Someday I’ll delete your text messages.

Why do I have a picture in my head of you rolling your eyes?

Reporter’s Notebook: Two friends rest in peace