Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Holcombe to retire from Globe

By JASON JUNO

[email protected]

Ironwood - The newspaper business takes you places.

A triple overtime thriller. A veterans honor flight. Inside an ESPN commercial.

Managing Editor Larry Holcombe is retiring this week 30 years after his start with The Globe. He began in the news department, became sports editor in the summer of 1996 and eventually returned as managing editor after a short stint doing the same job in Houghton.

Holcombe worked through many changes in the industry, most of it going digital - cameras, the pagemaking process and the addition of the internet.

Through it all, he presented the community's stories, from Gurney to Watersmeet, from Springstead to Ontonagon, and everywhere in between.

"I've been honored to work with many bright, strong writers, photographers and page makers over of the years," Holcombe said. "I learned so much from my early editors and colleagues. They helped hone my writing style and news judgment. I've tried to learn something from everyone I've worked with."

Newspapering is a challenge, but a fun one, Holcombe said.

"The idea has always been to hold up the newspaper like a mirror, with our best effort to reflect the community, telling the stories of the community, and we've been part of that community," he said. "I will miss the people at the Globe, but also the fine folks that helped us tell the stories of the community - people at city hall or the courthouse, in the classroom or school office, at the fair, backstage or on stage at the theater, in their place of worship, on the trail or ski hill, under the tent at the festival, along the parade route or under the fireworks, in the library, or behind the counter at their business.

"We've told a lot of good, strong stories, and there are so many more to come."

The Nebraska native picked up the nickname "Husker" while picking football games in the paper each week. His tenure spanned five presidents and more than 3,300 inches of snow.

"Larry Holcombe has been a staple at The Globe," the paper's publisher, Heidi Ofstad, said. "His dedication and guidance in the newspaper industry is invaluable. In his time here, the newsroom has received numerous awards from the Michigan and Wisconsin press associations, as well as producing numerous special sections. He will be missed and I wish him well in his retirement."

Pamela Jansson, who has been with The Globe since 2017 as a part-time reporter, will take his place. She has many years of experience as a managing editor of previous publications and "has a strong background in journalism," Ofstad said.

"I look forward to her knowledge and experience, and I know that she will be a good fit with keeping the high standards that have been set in place," she said.

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Four years after moving to Ironwood, Holcombe saw Andy Hill in downtown Ironwood playing pinball. He knew Hill, the newspaper's newsroom boss at the time, from being in community theater together.

He asked Hill how one goes about getting a job in the Daily Globe newsroom. He let Hill win at pinball - "that's my story and I'm sticking to it," Holcombe said - and Hill invited Holcombe over to chat. Holcombe soon filled in for the community editor, who was on maternity leave, and it became a 6-week trial. After she came back to work, Holcombe stayed on as the paper's third news reporter.

In those first weeks, the first place the job took Holcombe was to a Wakefield City Council meeting in late January 1994, where a couple of property condemnations ruled the day.

Two days later, he was there when the Gogebic County Board purchased patrol cars for the Sheriff's Department.

The job most days was reporting the grind of everyday life. The wheels of government turning - road projects, traffic accidents, police blotters.

In June 1996, Sports Editor Ron Trethewey retired.

"We were standing down by the press on Friday night and they said, 'Who's going to write sports?'" Holcombe said. "I said, 'What about me?'"

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The new focus then was on 10 local high schools, Gogebic Community College and building a daily sports report. Friday night football games around the Gogebic Range in all kinds of weather. Basketball games on cold winter nights. Track meets, hopefully on nice spring days.

One game after another, but some days it was extraordinary.

Such as Halloween 2002 in Ironwood.

It was as if Sesame Street's Count Dracula was counting off overtimes between the Red Devils and Gremlins on Halloween Night at John Krznarich Gymnasium.

One overtime, ah, hah, hah, hah, hah!

Two overtimes, ah! Hah, hah, hah, hah!

Three overtimes, ah! Hah, hah, hah, haaah!

Holcombe called the Ironwood girls basketball team's 56-53 triple-overtime victory over Houghton his favorite game to cover, and that was the lead to his story the next day in the Daily Globe.

"The band was dressed up in costumes. It was the Gremlins vs. the Red Devils, Houghton ... hadn't lost in a year-and-a-half or more," Holcombe said. The streak was at 56 straight regular-season wins. "Sveta Kovalenko was Houghton's big girl inside; she went on to play at Marquette University. Kristen Ruppe was the inside star, the overall star for Ironwood. She cleared a thousand points that night, in the middle of this thing. She later set the scoring record at GCC."

Fourteen months later, Holcombe covered Watersmeet's boys basketball victory over Bessemer that was anything but ordinary.

What at times appeared to be a three-ring circus and other times a Hollywood set turned out to be a pretty good basketball game as Watersmeet handed Bessemer a 70-55 defeat Friday evening.

That December 2003 game really was a film set, as ESPN cameras rolled for a commercial that would celebrate sports' impacts on communities like Watersmeet, and introduce the Nimrod nickname to the rest of the country.

His favorite quote for that story? "This really was a lot like a circus. I was just waiting for Stone Cold to show up," Bessemer coach Mark Movrich quipped.

Holcombe was there for the ride, coining the phrase "Nimrod Nation." He woke up coach George Peterson III by phone in Los Angeles where the team was set to appear on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in March 2004, and followed along as the Sundance Channel documented the Nimrods' next basketball season for a miniseries. When the Traverse City Film Festival showcased it in August 2007, he was there. There was some pretty good basketball along the way, as the Nimrods were twice named U.P. Team of the Year.

He told the Swartz family story, how Mike Jr. in 2005 led Hurley boys basketball to its first regional title in 25 years when his Dad, Mike Sr., was a starter.

He was along for the ride as the Hurley football team continued a long streak of playoff appearances, including a comeback from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime against vaunted Edgar - a home playoff game, albeit a loss, that many remember 19 years later.

There were exceptional runners - including Ironwood's Ann Somerville cruising by a St. Ignace sprint star on the back stretch of the final leg of the 1,600-meter relay to secure another Red Devil U.P. title in May 1997.

There were multiple trips to the state softball tournament with Hurley, led by the likes of Jaclyn "Bird" Bertagnoli, Ashley Levra and Kristin Zinsmaster on the mound, and Sarah Tarasewicz at and behind the plate.

He covered the long saga that finally moved Michigan girls basketball to the winter and volleyball to the fall, like other states, in time for the 2007-08 school year, a move he supported, and wondered why it took so long.

In 2000, the Speedboys basketball team excited the Bessemer community and region with a run to the state tournament.

In 2006, the Ironwood boys basketball team had an exceptional season and swept the major U.P. awards - Team of the Year, Player of the Year Michael Pawlak and Coach of the Year Pete Lewinski.

Holcombe got to work with many fine coaches, including those who were inducted into either U.P. or Wisconsin halls of fame - Hurley's Scott Erickson (football) and Jim Kivisto (softball), E-TC's Nancy Osier and Tom Caudill (both basketball), Ontonagon's Dick Franti (basketball) and Bob Carlson (football), Pat Gallinagh (Ironwood and Bessemer football) and Gogebic's Deke Routheaux (hoops).

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After 12 years writing sports, Holcombe moved back to the news side, first as managing editor of the Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton, and then back to the Daily Globe in the same role since October 2010.

That job has kept him in the office a bit more, but he did pick up the Ironwood city and Hurley school beats.

Special projects and special sections got him out in the community, as well.

He looked into the family tree of Solomon Curry, an early mining baron who built one of the most recognizable homes in Ironwood, located at 631 McLeod Ave., in the late 19th century.

He profiled U.S. Navy Ens. William M. Finnegan, a Bessemer native who died on the USS Oklahoma in the attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941. His remains were identified using DNA analysis in 2016 and he was buried in Honolulu in 2023.

Two days before rock 'n' roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson were killed in a plane crash in Iowa, their bus broke down on a snowy, frigid night on U.S. 51 south of Hurley after performing in Duluth that evening.

They were driven back here and Richardson was among a small group who stayed at the St. James Hotel in downtown Ironwood.

"This was a fun one," Holcombe said. "I had an Iowa friend get me the photo of the receipt in the Clear Lake museum from the St. James Hotel in Ironwood."

And the job still took him to all kinds of places.

Holcombe was invited along on a veterans Honor Flight to Washington D.C., a one-day trip for Wisconsin veterans to see some of the memorials around the capital city in April 2017.

"I felt a little unworthy because there were 84 veterans along. The focus was certainly on their service," he said. "They invited me to come along in order to spread the word."

Documenting their journey, and advertising it for other veterans who might want to go, is certainly worthy, and he got to see and experience the same veterans memorials they did.

Strangers in the Washington airport stopped to applaud, salute and greet the veterans. Their buses zipped around Washington with a police escort, through red lights and switching multiple lanes apace. The changing of the guard at the Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers was the most dramatic part of the day, the only sounds were the footsteps of the guards and the ever so light rain drops, that some how didn't dampen the day. An adoring crowd of family and friends cheered as they arrived back at the airport in Mosinee late that evening.

"It was an incredible day; it's hard to describe how awesome it was," Holcombe said.

Now let's see where retirement takes him.

 
 
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