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  • Writer's pictureKurt J. Kolka


By Kurt J. Kolka

(2015 - What I thought was to be my final column for the Gaylord Herald Times)

As most of you know, I am a big fan of comics. Especially newspaper comics these days. That's what I started out reading as a kid and now at middle age where I find much of my daily entertainment. They continue to provide humor, adventure and drama. Who needs TV?

I have been a fan of newspaper comics since childhood and even have a collection of "The Phantom" comic strips pasted into scrapbooks spanning the late 1970s to the late '90s.

It was in the '90s I discovered the Internet and the websites which carried tons of newspaper comics. Over the years, I found myself discovering, reading and becoming a fan of many long-running comics like Dick Tracy, Gasoline Alley, Judge Parker, Alley Oop and many others.

One of the strips I began reading regularly was "Brenda Starr -- Reporter." The strip had been popular for decades, especially among girls and young women, and in fact, Brenda's adventures was one of the reasons many women became interested in journalism as a career.

Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich took over as writer back in the '80s and was hitting her stride as a fiction writer for "Brenda Starr" by the late '90s and early 2000s. And I really enjoyed her stories which often read like mysteries (my favorite genre in books) and had elements of adventure as well.

I read it online at for several years, but there was also a store down in Grayling which carried the Chicago Tribune on Sundays back then. I loved the Tribune because it housed some of my favorite comic strips including "Dick Tracy," "Broom Hilda" and "Brenda Starr" -- strips no longer carried in our area newspapers.

Then, sadly, in the summer of 2010, her syndicate announced that "Brenda Starr" would be ending after the first of the year. So, I tried to make the 30-mile trip to down Grayling every Sunday to read her final installments in print. There were only a few weeks I missed in that final adventure.

Finally, on January 2, 2011, Brenda walked away from a staff office party, having just quit her job, and into the bright Chicago sunrise.

The strip had begun in 1940 with Brenda getting her job at the Flash newspaper. And on that 2011 morning, her story came full circle as she resigned the position.

As writer, Mary did not tie up every loose end of Brenda's life in that final panel. Readers were left to wonder about her on-again-off-again relationship with her long-time love interest and ex-husband, Basil St. John, and what might lie ahead for her for a next career. But, while not all the questions about her future were answered, the hope for that future lay ahead of her in that rising sun.

A couple years ago, our family took a trip to Chicago, a favorite destination for us. And I made an appointment to meet with Mary at the Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago and have her sign an original artwork for a Brenda Starr comic strip she had written, along with the final Brenda Starr strip which I had cut out of the Chicago Tribune.

On that final strip, Mary wrote these words: "Kurt, may you too walk into a sunrise."

Today, I find myself looking at that final strip and rereading Mary's words. Because they fit where I am at. There comes a time for everything to end. And my time with the Gaylord Herald Times has reached that point. I feel like I can almost be in Brenda's place in that final, city-spanning panel with a huge horizon before me.

Not all the strings in my life have been tied up either. It's just time to move on.

While I may occasionally write a guest column or submit some photos in the future, this column marks the end of my regular submissions as columnist and religion writer.

Before I end this final column, I would like to thank former editor Chris Grosser and former publisher Jim Grisso for giving me a chance here; former editor Peter Comings for his encouragement; Editor Jeremy Speer and News Editor Cathy Landry, who I respect greatly; Lorene Parshall; Judy Wagley; Frank Michels; Chris Engle; Mike Jones; Mark Johnson; Brendon Folsom and publisher, Paul Gunderson, who it feels like has been my boss ever since I came to Gaylord. To the police officers and local pastors, thank you for working with me.

I will greatly miss my colleagues and those unseen faces out there, whoever you were, who read my ramblings here over the past several years. I'm not sure what lies ahead for me either.

For anyone wishing to read more of my words from this point on, I would encourage you to go to every Sunday. Here I will continue to post my thoughts and feelings, as I always have, through my comic strip, "The Cardinal."

​As I look ahead, I do not know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future. Toward His light I tread.

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