Thanks for checking out my blog…and for reading The Sanford Herald…
Here’s more about me than you really wanted to know:
I was born in Sanford…my mom (a Kansas native) and dad (born in Sanford) met in the Navy in Portsmouth, Virginia, and my dad came back to Sanford after his stint in the Navy to work with my namesake grandfather, W. E. Horner Sr., who founded The Herald in 1930. When my parents divorced in 1972, my mom and sister and I moved to Kansas to a small town – Blue Rapids – where my mom’s mother, brother and two sisters lived.
It was a culture shock, moving from the South to a tiny town in the Midwest. I once had to go to the principal’s office in grade school shortly after moving there because I said “yes, sir,” “no, sir,” “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am” to the teachers. None of the kids in Kansas did that, and the teachers thought I was being a smart aleck.
I grew up in the shadow of my big sister Belinda, who was head cheerleader/homecoming queen/valedictorian (no lie – she hit the trifecta her senior year) at Valley Heights High School, located between Blue Rapids and Waterville in northeast Kansas. I didn’t play football or study in high school, so my class rank (out of 41 students), though in the single-digits, wasn’t as impressive as Belinda’s.
I did play golf at Valley Heights, though, and won the 1981 Class 1A – 3A state golf championship my senior year on sand greens. I would have made straight A’s one semester my senior year in high school except for an A-minus I got in a composition class because I did my footnotes wrong on a term paper. My teacher in that class and I used to trade Stephen King books and I thought she’d cut me a break, but she didn’t. I didn’t inherit my dad’s and grandfather’s penchant for details, unfortunately. Come to think of it, my sister got all of that, plus the Horner family “neat genes.” One look at my office proves that.
I was singled out twice in high school for achievements for which I occasionally remind my wife: one of my high school teachers told our American history class I was the only student who could do more than two things at once. Another teacher (the same one who gave me the A-minus, come to think of it) said I was the only student who had permission to start a sentence with the word “But” in a composition.
I loved Kansas and the people there. There’s no pretense about midwesterners. I also loved the snow and even the tornado warnings we had during the spring and summer months. I never saw a tornado, but I drove through one in Wichita and the mobile home we lived in was nearly destroyed in a hail storm (and possible tornado) in the summer of 1974. Much of my prized baseball card collection and my paperback biography of Roberte Clemente was ruined in the damage.
I’m still best friends with my two best friends from Valley Heights: Scott Burger ( a year older than me), with whom I played on the golf team, and Darrell Spain (a year younger) who shared my “Far Side” sense of humor. Scott’s a school teacher in Sabetha, Kansas, where he lives with his wife and four kids; Darrell’s an attorney back in Waterville, where he grew up, and still searching for Ms. Right. We figure out a way to see each other every year. Scott and I play golf and Darrell and I do hockey road trips.
Most of my family, including my brilliant sister, went to school at UNC-Chapel Hill. Although my ACT scores (we didn’t take the SAT in Kansas) were higher than Belinda’s, she got accepted to Carolina as an out-of-state student and I didn’t. (I didn’t have “homecoming king” on my resume.) It ticked my dad off to no end, given the family’s legacy there. I found out only later that he drove up to the admissions office after I was denied and raised Cain. Of his many expressions of love for me, this is one of my favorites.
By then, though, I had already decided on going to the University of Kansas in Lawrence. I graduated there in 1985 and spent a lot of my time working for two different newspapers – the University Daily Kansan (KU’s student newspaper), the Topeka Capital-Journal (where I was a KU sports correspondent) – as well as the university’s Sports Information department. KU still has one of the best journalism programs in the country, and I get a kick out of the KU-UNC connections (starting with Dean Smith, the legendary former UNC coach who graduated from KU).
College had its ups and downs, but I made it through in four years with a degree and, thanks to divine intervention and a fraternity roommate, was able to hear Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright speak at a retreat my sophomore year and hear God’s plan of salvation, which changed my life.
I worked for The Herald most summers after I turned 13, and spent part of the summer after I graduated from KU working at The Marysville (Kan.) Advocate, which was a great experience because I worked for great people. My best experiences early on at The Herad were working under then-Sports Editor R. V. Hight, who’s now our Special Projects Editor. I always tell people R. V. was my first boss here. When I came to The Herald full-time on August 5, 1985, I started off in our circulation department, spending my afternoons helping carriers on their delivery routes.
My dad fired me once, following an argument we had about group health insurance for Herald employees. I came back to work two days later after finally returning his phone calls. It wasn’t so bad. My grandfather fired him twice. Dad and I laughed about it all later.
I met my wife Lee Ann in 1988. She was literally an answer to a prayer and we’ve been happily together as a married couple since 1990. Zachary was born in 1992, Addison in 1994 and Karis in 1997. Lee Ann holds us all together and she’s the epitome of a Proverbs 31 woman, if you care to look that up. Zachary is a lot like me (the good parts of me, anyway) and loves to write and, for some strange reason, shares my taste for 80s music. Addison is our intellectual and loves to create things, and knows more about Star Wars and Legos than anyone I know. Karis is our free-spirited child who loves animals more than anything else and gives the best hugs of anyone I know. We have four cats: Stormy, Snow Cream, Sparkle and Sparkle’s baby, Pumpkin. I love dogs but we’re waiting to put a fence up before we get one.
We sold The Herald to Paxton Media Group in 1998, and the best part about that was staying in a “family” ownership group. The fifth generation of Paxton family members are now working inside the company.
I was a huge sports fan growing up but lost interest in most of them when free agency came in vogue. I fell in love with hockey when the Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1998 and we’ve been season-ticket-holders ever since. The fact that Lee Ann loves it as well is especially gratifying. My love for the game has been enhanced by friendships I’ve forged with two professional hockey players, Martin Gelinas (formerly of the Hurricanes, now with the Nashville Predators) and Serge Payer (a former teammate of Marty’s in Florida, now with the Minnesota Wild). They’re two of the finest people I’ve ever met and I like to think we’d be friends even if we didn’t share so many hockey-related experiences. I collect game-used hockey sticks and game-worn hockey jerseys, and soon you’ll be able to see parts of my collection under “Hockey Stuff” on this blog.
My dad passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2005. My mom, who’s had a bigger influence on me than any other person in my life, lives part of the year in Las Vegas and part of the year in Wilmington. Raising two kids as a single mom was a challenge for her, but she was and is a great mom and I learned most of “life’s important lessons” from her. I’m also blessed with Lee Ann’s mom and dad, Bill & Cathy Knight, who became family to me immediately upon meeting them. Lee Ann has three great brothers, all married, all with kids. Sister Belinda and her great husband, Billy, didn’t make me an uncle, but their three dogs seem to love me.
We have a great church family at Turner’s Chapel Church in Sanford and we’re blessed as well with many great friends. It was hard leaving so many good friends back in Kansas, but getting to play golf and spend quality time Charlie Welborn here in Sanford has helped make up for it.
Reach me at:
Direct line: (919) 718-1234
By fax: (919) 774-4269
By mail: c/o The Sanford Herald, P. O. Box 100, Sanford, N. C. 27331-0100