Features editor Sharon Bomstad approved her final page Friday as the press deadline approached for Saturday’s print edition. She has been a strong presence in the West Central Tribune’s newsroom for more than four decades.

Through those 42-plus years, Sharon worked as a news assistant, reporter, section editor and for the past decade as features editor.

“We are grateful for Sharon’s dedication, hard work and commitment to the community and the West Central Tribune. We would not be here today if it wasn’t for people like Sharon. Thank you.,” said Bill Marcil Jr., president and chief executive officer of Forum Communications Co.

In March 1979, she first walked into the Willmar newsroom and editor John Tradup hired her. Since then she has worked for four other editors: Forrest Peterson, Dana Yost, Ruth Newman and myself.

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When I asked Newman in 2001 about the newsroom staff, she said simply. “Sharon handles special sections. You make sure you stay out of her way and you’ll do just fine,” Newman said.

I have tried my best for nearly 20 years, with pretty good success most days.

Sharon started in the days of typewriters and hot lead at the Tribune’s downtown office. The technology then evolved to Compugraphic machines and paste-up methods of the 1980s. A new technology called pagination with desktop computers came along in the 1990s. By the 21st century, the internet had grown in importance: laptops, mobile phones, tablets and digital cameras impacted journalism. Over the past decade, social media, the great recession and the COVID-19 pandemic have changed how and where we work.

In fact, for most of the past year, Sharon along with many in our newsroom have worked from home to help keep our news staff healthy. Laptops, mobile phones and the internet enable our news staff to work anywhere — from their home to their car to any remote news site.

Through those decades, Sharon has served four of the five publishers at the Tribune. She worked with publisher O.B. Augustson in her first year. Then under Forum Communications Co. ownership, she worked with publishers Paul London, Steve McLister and Steve Ammermann.

“Sharon has made countless contributions to the newspaper over these 42 years and has endured many changes. She has made us and the company better, challenging us to become the best at what we do,” said Steve Ammermann, West Central Tribune publisher.

Sharon was highly respected by community members, her Tribune co-workers and other Forum Communications associates.

“When I started working at The Barn Theatre, Sharon was always very approachable and an excellent listener. She was the face of the Tribune for me,” said Nancy Geiger, a volunteer at the community theater.

“Sharon was always the real professional maintaining the highest journalistic standard,” said Rand Middleton, a former Tribune sports reporter and photographer.

“Sharon has an incredible gift for recognizing how stories about people, their families, their passions, their art, their struggles and their celebrations can help bring our communities to life,” said Carolyn Lange, a Tribune reporter who has worked closely with Bomstad in recent years. “I don’t know what we’ll do without her,” said Lange.

"Sharon fostered a lot of growth both in the newsroom and personally in my own career. She thinks outside the box and is always on the hunt for new and exciting ways to serve our readers. Her dedication to the west central Minnesota community is admirable and will be truly missed," said Erica Dischino, Tribune photographer.

“Apart from her considerable journalism skills, what I appreciated about Sharon is her ability to be candid about situations and policies in need of improvement while also focusing on the needs of everyone involved in the process. It is wonderful to have someone who will be honest with you,” said Alicia Strnad Hoalcraft, Forum Communications Co.'s production department manager.

"Sharon is one of the most dedicated people I've ever worked with. She cares deeply about the job she does, about doing it well, doing it right. But she not only cares about her own job, she cares deeply about the paper as a whole, about the work environment as a whole and about the community. In my time at the paper, she was involved in different committees and roles that had her involved with overall quality and with community outreach. She's done a lot for the paper and community and she'll be missed," said Dana Yost, former Tribune editor.

Through the years, Sharon has been the Tribune’s primary contact for the arts and entertainment communities of west central Minnesota.

Sharon was not only an excellent journalist, she was the Tribune’s expert coordinator and organizer for the newspaper and Willmar Lakes Area communities.

Under London’s tenure, Sharon organized and coordinated the Tribune’s Warm The Children fund. Under her direction for 22 years, the program worked with agencies in the region and provided warm winter clothing for children in need during the Christmas holiday season.

For many years, she coordinated the Tribune’s program of MInnesota’s Adopt a Highway program. Twice a year, we cleaned a two-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 12 between Kandiyohi and Atwater, including the sweeping bridge over the BNSF Railway track.

Sharon was the founding editor for Live It! Magazine, a lifestyles magazine published by the Tribune in recent years. The content and style came from her imagination and planning abilities.

For the past five years, Sharon has been the team leader for the company’s culture development and programming at the Willmar location.

She has written the weekly "The Tribune this Week" newsletter that keeps all Tribune associates up to date on company information and news.

Our newsroom and our newspaper are going to miss Sharon deeply. However, we are happy to see her start the next chapter in life: traveling with her husband, Mike Bomstad, tending to her garden and flowers, listening to her country music and visiting her grandchildren.

Friday was the last day of Sharon's journalism career at the Tribune. It’s time for an old story-ending signal from journalism’s telegraph era. That’s a: — 30 —

Kelly Boldan has been the editor of the West Central Tribune and wctrib.com since October 2001.