Sunny Day News
Tom Dietrich’s career has been devoted to the newspaper business. But on May 30, Dietrich will be delivered to a new life, free of deadlines, when he retires from the Orange County Register after 47 years with the large Southern California daily.
His retirement won’t make headlines in that newspaper, but his absence in its Santa Ana, Calif., building will be as apparent as missing answers to tomorrow’s crossword puzzle.
Dietrich, 63, is Circulation Manager for the Register. Most of his 47 years at the newspaper were spent in distribution and circulation. He began at the Register in 1967, answering phones for customer service. The paper was owned then by the Hoiles family. It was a time when a call to a large local business was answered by a human voice. A different era.
“When it was a family-owned newspaper – that word ‘family’ – that’s what you felt like. The publisher knew almost everybody. … It was really a family. Everybody that worked here stayed here a long, long time,” said Dietrich, who lives in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., and whose own immediate family includes his wife, Kim, and their two faithful yellow Labrador retrievers.
When the Hoiles family owned the Register, Dietrich said, it was the most memorable and enjoyable period of his tenure. The patriarch of the Hoiles was the legendary R.C. Hoiles. Dietrich had been working at the Register for only a few weeks when he first met Hoiles, the paper’s publisher.
Dietrich, then 16, had strategically parked his Volkswagen near the paper’s loading dock, away from other vehicles. A large Chrysler pulled in next to him. An elderly driver he didn’t recognize flung open his door, dinging the passenger side of Dietrich’s prized teen-age ride.
“What in the heck is wrong with you?” said an angry Dietrich. “I can’t believe you just did that!”
The old man apologized and took the kid’s name.
A few days later, Dietrich received in the mail a check for $150, along with a note of apology for the minor damage, signed personally from R.C. Hoiles.
Another note Dietrich got in the mail early in his Register tenure was less welcome. It was a draft notice from Uncle Sam. Dietrich spent three years serving his country in the Army, from 1970 to 1973. One of his three sons was born in Germany while he was stationed there. Dietrich’s retirement provides him the chance to spend more time with his sons, Josh, Jason and Jeremiah.
“I want to spend quality time with my sons and their families and my (four) grandkids. This will give me the opportunity to do that,” said Dietrich, who also plans to do volunteer work to occupy free time.
But, first, there is some long-awaited travel planned!
He, Kim – and the two dogs – will happily launch their “Life is Good” retirement tour when they hit the road in their travel trailer June 1 for a nearly three-week journey through California’s Sierra Nevada.
“We are so excited, and the timing is great,” Kim Dietrich said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s the perfect time of year to go, and it will be beautiful there.”
In addition to scenic stops at Lone Pine, Mammoth Lakes and other small mountain towns, the Dietrichs will visit Lake Tahoe, where they were married 16 years ago.
“We got married in Lake Tahoe on June 15. And we’re going to be there on June 15 for our anniversary. That’s going to be really special,” Kim said.
It’s easy to see why Dietrich is counting down the days to his retirement. However, he said there are aspects of his Register career he will miss.
“The value we bring to the community and being a part of that process. We are definitely an asset to our community. We are the watchdogs. We also tie communities and people together with our reporting,” Dietrich said. “I’ll miss being the final person to make sure that this product gets to everyone.”
Of course, Dietrich said he will also miss his coworkers: “So many good, hard-working people … That will be what I miss the most.”
Social media allows him to remain somewhat in touch. Dietrich is just a Facebook or LinkedIn message away.
Just understand if he doesn’t respond right away. He’s no longer on deadline, and the next chapter is only now being written.