Always on the sidelines, always in our hearts

Published 4:39 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2022

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There are some stories you never want to write. As a local journalist, the hardest stories are the ones that involve the people you love; the ones who you came to know through your work and their dedication to the community.

Abigail Roberts (formerly Whitehouse), left, and Nancy Leedy at the 2017 Kentucky Press Association awards ceremony. Photo submitted

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Nancy Leedy was one of a kind. She was the embodiment of local journalism.

When I first became editor of The Interior Journal, I was 10 years or more younger than my whole staff, which included Bonnie Kolasa, Gina Cooper and Nancy Leedy.

I know they were just as nervous as I was; here came this recent college graduate with only a year-and-a-half of being a staff writer under her belt before becoming editor and she was going to tell these ladies how to do their jobs – jobs they had been doing for over 20 years.

But I have always been a firm believer of the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” They knew what they were doing, and I knew I could learn so much from them.

I can’t begin to describe how much I did come to learn from them, especially Nancy.

Nancy dedicated most of her life to covering Lincoln County sports. In all kinds of weather, rain or snow, Nancy was on the sidelines getting the best action photos and the best post-game interviews. She would grab lunch or dinner on the go and come back to the office where she would spend the rest of her evening editing those photos, typing up those interviews and putting together the best-looking sports section a local newspaper could feature.

When the newspaper sold and we lost Bonnie and Gina, it was just me and Nancy taking on the whole county. From public records to obituaries, to hard news and sports, Nancy and I scrambled every week to do our very best and put out a quality local newspaper, as well as a new magazine.

It was hard work and long hours. There were some Tuesday nights when Nancy and I would trade off crying from the stress. But we always got it done.

Wednesday morning would come and we would be back in the office to do it all over again.

In February 2018, Nancy and I brought home 14 Kentucky Press Association awards and third place in General Excellence against similar-sized weekly papers in the state, and we couldn’t have been more proud.

Nancy went on to become editor in May 2018 and stayed until her position was eliminated in 2020.

At the time, Nancy was quoted saying “It’s Lincoln County news about Lincoln County’s people. Working as a sports editor at The IJ fell in my lap back in 1986 and I’ve loved my job since day one. This is my hometown paper and I hope this hometown girl can successfully continue a tradition of providing local news coverage.”

And she did.

Eventually we both left our posts at the paper, but when it’s in your blood, you find ways to continue to do what you love. I still write local stories, and Nancy was still present at local games and community events. And I was always so happy to see her when I went to cover an event.

When news of Nancy’s passing began to spread, the community responded immediately. Nancy’s coverage, her quirky headlines and her amazing action photos garnered so many Kentucky Press Association awards each year, but beyond that, she was ever-present in the lives of Lincoln Countians. So many people remember Nancy being there to document monumental moments in their lives, or even random, fun moments that turned into clippings on the fridge. No matter the occasion, Nancy has always been there and because of that her legacy will always be with us.