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One of my favorite messages in scripture is from Ecclesiastes 3.

It has given me comfort in times of sadness, and guidance in times of indecision.

The words are so inspirational that they were incorporated into a hit song a number of years ago. Share a few of them with me:

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

“A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.

“A time to keep, and a time to cast away.

“A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”

Read that one again: ”A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”

For 56-plus years, I have chosen to believe that it was a time to speak.

In 1964, I completed my two-year stint in the active Army and came home to Bartow to become managing editor of The Polk County Democrat, a twice-weekly community newspaper started by my grandfather and great-grandfather.

I began writing a column.

Why? Because that’s what editors of community newspapers do. I followed in the path of Great-Granddad, Granddad, and Dad in that regard. It is an important part of a newspaper’s connection with its community.

As I think back over those first few months, I cringe. At the age of 23, I knew all the answers. Oh yeah, sure I did.

I was hyper-critical of local politicians.

I am indebted to Richard Frisbie, my uncle, for urging me to be more tolerant of political positions with which I disagreed. At the time, I didn’t appreciate his advice, but I knew he was correct, and I followed it.

Today, I consider it some of the best advice I ever got, and I am grateful to him for it.

In future years, I was criticized by some readers for not being critical enough. As between the two extremes, I prefer that one.

I got the greatest response to the most personal columns I wrote, in particular the ones I wrote about our three children. Readers loved them; sometimes my children did not.

Some I wrote with tears in my eyes, particularly when writing about the death of my best friend in college, a Marine Corps captain killed on his third tour in Vietnam. His death changed my outlook on that war.

As an Army officer in Washington, D.C., for two years after graduating from college, I assumed the president and his staff knew what we were doing in Vietnam, and that it was worth the cost in American lives and suffering.

The death of Capt. Jerry Woodall put a face on those losses, and I became one of the growing number of Americans who questioned America’s involvement in that war.

I wrote, as best I can calculate, more than 5,000 columns before my retirement on Jan. 1, 2010. I have continued writing one a week for the past 11 years, another 550 or so columns.

When our CPA prepares our federal income tax return each year, he lists Mary’s occupation as “retired” and mine as “semi-retired journalist.”

On this Friday, Jan. 15, I will turn 80 years old. I have decided it is time to remove the “semi” from my occupation.

My reasoning is simple:

(1) I want to give it up while I still enjoy it.

(2) I want to give it up while I am still reasonably good at it.

(3) I want to give it up at a time of my own choosing, not when somebody else tells me the time has come.

Today’s column is my last.

My sincere thanks to all my readers, especially to those who took the time to tell me when they agreed ... or disagreed ... with what I wrote.

My special thanks to my children, who tolerated the unwanted attention that my column sometimes brought to them for so many years.

They have become valued editors, capturing numerous pre-publication errors in wording or spelling (and occasionally in facts) before they appeared in print.

Stay well.

S. L.

(S. L. Frisbie is retired ... as of this Friday, fully retired. It already feels good. He has enjoyed “a time to speak” since 1964. It is now “a time to keep silence.”)