I thought long and hard about Walt’s request. I began my employment at the Tribune in 1985 and worked side-by-side with Tad through his years at the Tribune, and as the “Focus on People” columnist.
Clarence “Tad” Poel was one of the finest persons I have ever worked with.
We didn’t always agree on everything, but Tad would never let that stand between our friendship. He was always inquiring about my family, asking how everyone was doing.
Tad’s recognition in the community was unbelievable. He not only was an energetic journalist, he was a pillar in the community. If an organization needed help with publicizing an event, Tad was more than willing. And he volunteered to serve on numerous committees, including The Salvation Army. He was always willing to help out — no matter how much time it took from his busy schedule.
I interviewed Tad for the Tribune’s special 125th anniversary edition in 2010. Tad was proud of the fact that he had written more than 7,000 columns in his 65 years as a newsman.
I was always amazed at how Tad could churn out column after column. He didn’t make a lot of money writing those columns, but the joy of writing them was priceless for him.
Tad was adamant that his columns would be of a positive nature. “I try not to make my columns critical of people,” he said.
I agree with my former boss, Fred VandenBrand, who wrote: “Tad loved human interest stories, especially about common folk, and his columns were usually about people who weren’t normally in the limelight.”
I don’t know how many times I have had people call me and request that Tad Poel be assigned to write their story. Tad never turned down a request, as far as I can remember.
One of my favorite stories involving Tad took place several years ago. Dennis Swartout, then director of the Tri-Cities Historical Museum, called me up and asked if I could get Tad to attend the museum’s annual recognition night. The museum was going to name Tad as the “Historian of the Year.”
Swartout wanted to keep the award a secret from Tad until the awards banquet. It was my job to convince Tad to attend the banquet. So I had to tell him that I needed him to write about the banquet because I had no one else available.
Tad didn’t hesitate to accept the request. I can remember his broad smile and surprise when Swartout presented him with the award.
I was also amazed at how active Tad was for someone his age. He always walked to the Tribune from his house and played tennis until two years ago.
I though a lot about Tad’s relationship with his family. His family came first.
Through the years, I’ve worked with quite a few journalists. Some were outstanding reporters. Some were great editors. But none of them could duplicate the impact that Tad had on his community.
In the 26 years I’ve lived in the Tri-Cities, I’ve never heard of anyone who harbored a dislike for Tad. He will be missed.