October 8, 1996
You saw the item about Milo Watson in this paper the other day. He's now living in a retirement facility near his younger daughter, Mary Lee Streller, whose home is on a rural route out of Earlsboro. Milo was not doing well when he left Perry last summer and his condition is not improving. We all miss him like the dickens and certainly wish him well.
I first met Milo in 1942 when W. K. Leatherock brought him to Perry to become advertising manager of ThePerry Daily Journal, hiring him away from The Harper County News in Buffalo, one of the best weekly papers in Oklahoma. A few years later, when Mr. Leatherock died after a period of ill health, Milo became publisher and part-owner of this paper. When Mrs. Leatherock left Perry later for a retirement center, Milo bought her interest in the business and, with his late wife, Anne, became sole owner. Milo and his two daughters still are the owners.
Milo made a unique imprint on this community during the more than half-century he spent at The Journal, and Perry will not be the same without him. Through that period, our business district has changed radically and we have moved from an economic base of oil and agriculture, thanks to the emergence of the Charles Machine Works, Inc., as a major international business. Population has stayed about the same but many new young families have moved here, bringing their fresh ideas and talents to stimulate our quality of life.
During Milo's stewardship, many things happened in Noble county and he was at the forefront of most of them. "When responsible people fully understand the need," he said, "they will find a way to make improvements." And he was proved correct time and again through the passage of bond issues, sales tax increases and/or public subscriptions. The key to the success of these projects was public understanding. That's where Milo came in. If he was convinced of the need for a public issue, he placed the full resources of his newspaper at the disposal of those backing the measure. It was not used as a club to blindly persuade people to act positively. But his personal column, editorials and clarifying news stories gave the public the knowledge needed to proceed intelligently, and that invariably meant success. Most of us can clearly recall examples of the type of civic effort Milo brought to bear to insure the approval of a given matter. "If Milo is for it, it must be all right." That statement was common when an issue was brought before the public.
He was more than a promoter of these things. He was the originator of many of them although he often stayed in the background to give others a chance to exercise leadership. He had an abiding faith in the wisdom of Perry and Noble county citizens to act responsibly when they knew all the facts.
Right now our community is faced with the need to finance a number of things in our school system, county and city governments, and Perry Memorial Hospital. You will be hearing much more about each of them, and a clear picture of options undoubtedly will be presented. Even without Milo at the helm, this paper will be providing you with information you need to make a decision. Each one of us owes it to ourselves, our families, our neighbors and the community at large to come to grips with the problems and face up to the fact that we must provide adequate financing for whatever services or facilities we deem necessary.
Milo isn't here to share with us his views of these things, but I think I know how he would feel about them. He would be right in the midst of the campaign to adequately inform those of us who must decide. Then when the votes are counted, he would again be able to say: "When responsible people fully understand the need, they will find a way to make improvements." That's the legacy he left with us. Milo is missed, but his influence will continue to be felt here because of the impact he made through a lifetime of a special type of service.