Closing our doors after 170 years

Sept. 30, 2020: Final edition of The Union Times

By Charles Warner [email protected]

UNION COUNTY — It’s always hard to say goodbye and that’s especially the case today, September 30, 2020, as The Union Times says goodbye to the people of Union County as our 170 years of service to them comes to an end with this, our final edition.

Our time of chronicling the news, sports, human interest, and other stories of the people of Union is now at journey’s end, a journey that began in 1850 when we were then known as The Weekly Union Times.

It’s been quite a journey, those 170 years, the last 30 of which I, Charles Warner, have had the great privilege to be part of.

Union County has changed a great deal during that time, going from being, in the 19th century, an overwhelmingly agrarian community of farms and plantations in an economy where King Cotton ruled to, in the 20th century, an industrialized community of mill villages where King Textile ruled.

In the 21st century, the local economy is more diversified with employers ranging from automotive-related manufacturers to regional distribution centers. It is an economy that is not only diversified but an increasingly globalized and Internet-driven one in which King Knowledge rules and an educated workforce and business community able to quickly adapt to ever more rapid change is vital to community survival.

The Union Times has covered these changes and has adapted to them, changes that were occurring even as I joined this newspaper’s staff in 1989.

When I joined, the local funeral homes hand-delivered the obituaries they wanted to run in this newspaper. Not long after I joined the staff we got a fax machine and the funeral homes were able to fax those obituaries in, much more efficient and speedy. In the years that followed, fax machines gave way to email, enabling myself and other staff members who handled them to no longer have to type them from a hard copy, but instead highlight and copy them onto our computer and edit them, an even more efficient and speedy method.

The arrival of email also heralded the arrival and increasing growth of the Internet and, again, The Union Times adapted, getting our own website (www.uniondailytimes.com) and our own Facebook page. We, like practically everyone else on the planet, joined the Internet age, enabling those interested in the news of Union County to read about it online without having to wait for a print edition to be delivered to their door.

We went from taking pictures with cameras that had film that had to be developed to digital photography using cellphones and smartphones, digital photos that could be sent to a computer rather than a darkroom.

Whether it was in print for more of the past 170 years and online in more recent years, The Union Times remained the working chronicler of the events of those years and the generations of Union County residents who lived through them with us and read about them in the pages of this newspaper.

Just think about it, Union County and The Union Times lived through the final years of the antebellum South and the Civil War that brought it to an end. We lived through Reconstruction in the aftermath of that war and the arrival of the Industrial Revolution at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Together we lived hrough World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Revolution, the Cold War, the rise and decline of the textile-based mill village society, the Persian Gulf War and its aftermath, 9/11 and its aftermath, and the rise of Internet Age and the changes it continues to make in our world and its impact on our community.

All these events and changes and their impact on Union County, its constituent communities, and the lives its people, The Union Times covered and reported on, capturing those things, both for contemporary consumption and for the historical record to give future generations a window through which to view the lives and experiences of their forebears.

We did this by telling the stories of the people of Union County who lived over the course of those 170 years. We covered the news and the sports. We reported on the churches, clubs, and other organizations that do so much to improve the quality of life a community. We covered about our schools and the teachers, staff, students, and parents of those students. We reported on economic development ranging from the announcements of large industries to ribbon cuttings for small businesses. These are among the many good things that a community can experience and documented them.

We also reported the not so good things such as crime, controversies, scandals and tragedies. Not our favorite kind of stories to cover.

Nevertheless, we documented both the good and the bad of the last 170 years, striving to the best of our ability to fully cover the events of the day and keep you, our subscribers and other readers, informed about what was going on in this, our beloved Union County. The Union Times and Union County have been through a lot together in those years and together we adapted and survived and moved forward together, traveling together into an unfolding future.

Unfortunately, The Union Times could not survive the COVID-19 Virus and the havoc it has wreaked upon the world. The Virus’ most tragic impact has, of course, been the lives lost, but it has also had a devastating impact on the global economy, an impact that has caused many businesses, many institutions to close their doors forever.

The Union Times is one of those institutions.

All who have worked for The Union Times as well as those who have read the pages we produced are no doubt saddened by this newspaper’s passing. It is sad to lose a member of the family and The Union Times has been part of the Union County family but. As with any family, there is birth and there is, in the course of time, death. It is now time for The Union Times to end its days.

On a personal note, I will especially miss The Union Times because through it I have been incredibly blessed.

First, it has given me the opportunity to put the education I gained in college to use as the journalist I’d wanted to be since I began delivering newspapers at the age of 10. Since 1989 I have been a reporter and photographer for and, since 2009, editor of this newspaper, in recent years being a nearly one-man show when it came to covering the news in this county.

Second, it has given me a community to call my own. Union County is my home, has been since 1989 and will continue to be until the day I die. I love Union County even more than I did my native Martinsville, Virginia where I spent most of the first three decades of my life. Union County is my home and I am proud to have been part of an institution that has served it so long and so well.

Most importantly, however, The Union Times brought me the love of my life, my beloved wife, Melony. She was working at The Union Times when I joined the staff in 1989. We did not hit it off at first but overcame our initial animosity to begin dating in 1992, falling in love and, on January 1, 1993, becoming husband and wife. It is because of The Union Times that I found my soul mate and, in finding her, became her husband; father to our daughter, Elise, and to her husband, Rob; and grandfather to our grandson, Noah. I gained a new mother and father in Melony’s parents, Linda (Mimi) and Randy (Papa) Medford, and a new grandmother in her grandmother, Ila (Nanny) Eller. I also gained a church family in the congregation of New Hope United Methodist Church.

All these blessings and more would never have come my way had I not became part of The Union Times and so this newspaper has truly been a blessing to me which gives me even more reason to mourn its passing.

Yet in my mourning at the passing of The Union Times into history, I nevertheless am looking forward to the future.

Why?

Well, if you’d asked me what my future looked like before I came to Union County to become part of The Union Times I would have said not much. Yet just when I thought I would never enjoy the blessings of a career, of being part of a great institution, of having a home to truly call my own, of knowing what true love is, what it is to have a wonderful marriage and family, God, through The Union Times, blessed me with all of those things and more. I believe He will equally bless me and my family in the years ahead until the day He calls us home to be with Him, the greatest of all blessings.

So much as I mourn and, I’m certain, all others who have loved this newspaper like I have its passing, I have faith that the community it served for 170 years, Union County, the community of which I am now part of and will live out my life in, will also be blessed in the years to come.

No, The Union Times will not be there to cover those years, but we’ve had a good run and we have a record of service to be proud of, a record of service as a working newspaper covering the events of the day. That’s how we began our existence and that’s how we’re ending it with this edition which, like so many editions before it, is reporting on the events of the day.

Thank you, Union County, for 170 years of supporting The Union Times. Goodbye and God bless.

Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.