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Lasting legacy: “Many people are good at talking about what they are doing, but in fact do little. Others do a lot but don’t talk about it; they are the ones who make a community live.” – Jean Vanier, philosopher, humanitarian

This is not a mushy Valentine’s Day love story, but it is a story about love.

When Chuck Card died at 90 late in January, anyone who knew him respected his love of God, family and community.

He owned the weekly newspaper in Britton for nearly 50 years and our paths would cross most often at annual conventions.

As I drove down Britton’s main street, I marveled at the variety of storefronts and overall tidiness of the shopping district. Small towns in South Dakota have struggled for decades, but Britton, population 1,259, has done well and Chuck was a key reason.

He always answered his community’s call. If there was a pressing need in Britton, you could bet that Chuck would volunteer. He boosted the town’s youth at every turn, receiving the Friend of Education and Friend of 4-H awards. He taught Sunday school, and not only supported, but was active in Boy Scouts. Not surprising for a former Eagle Scout.

His involvement in the business community was a natural for a man who loved his community, earning him the sobriquet “Mr. Britton” by some.

But it was his role as a newspaperman that I knew best.  Chuck knew that newspapers in smaller towns are the glue that holds the community together and Chuck stirred the gluepot. Sure, his newspaper was obliged to cover the school board, city council, sports and weddings. But it was, and still is, a place to find news about your friends and acquaintances. If a family needed help, or a child suffered a serious injury, the Journal would have the story.

I know we live in the “Facebook” era, but weekly newspapers remain essential to community cohesiveness. The best ones cover the news and issues important to the community so that residents can make informed decisions that affect their town’s future and viability.

Chuck knew all this and more.  He immersed himself in his town and its activities because he cherished them. His decisions were not calculated to improve his advertising base, though that was one consequence of his work.

In my travels across the state representing the South Dakota Community Foundation, I learned that all small towns are not equal. The ones that have succeeded have been fortunate to have strong local leadership. I don’t know if this is because of fate, luck or divine intervention, but rural towns that survive in this tough economic landscape all share a common denominator: Someone like Chuck Card.

Feb. 13, 2019