By Wendy Hood, Staff Correspondent
Stan Veitch has spent the last 25 years as a writer for various publications in northeast Alabama, including The Gadsden Times, The Cullman Times and currently The Messenger. His assignments have taken him on many high ways and byways across the state, and it seemed like he was always either headed to a high school sporting event or returning from one, rain or shine.
Veitch navigated many roadblocks along the way, but there was one obstacle that he could not bypass or avoid.
Last February, Veitch unfortunately received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He spent the majority of 2016 receiving treatment and is now spending his remaining days in the comfort of his home surrounded by friends and family.
Veitch said that the past year has been difficult because of his illness, especially during high school football season.
“Friday nights were tough,” he admitted. “I wanted to get out and go to the games like I always had.”
Veitch, who attends New Harmony Baptist Church in Reece City, credits his church family with being a tremendous source of support and comfort to him during this difficult time.
“It’s a small church with a big heart,” Veitch said.
Veitch was born in 1960 in Carrollton, Ga., and raised by his mother Sarah Jones and stepfather Ed Jones. He graduated from Douglas County High School in 1978.
Veitch described himself as a quiet, withdrawn child that loved to read. He said that as a young adult, he would frequent used bookstores to find murder mysteries and crime novels. His first job as a teenager was as a delivery boy for an auto parts store. Vetich said it was in that job that he realized that he loved to drive.
“Every job I’ve ever had required a lot of driving. I love getting out, driving around and meeting new people.”
After graduating high school, Veitch immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army. He spent three years in military service working at a chemical laboratory in Utah. After completing his military service, Veitch returned to Georgia, where he met Connie Parr, an Alabama girl visiting her cousin in Georgia. The two began courting and were married four short months later.
In 1989, the couple moved to Attalla to be near Connie’s family. At the time, Veitch worked in pest control but in the early 1990s he saw an article in The Gadsden Times asking for help covering the local sporting events. Although he had never written anything before in his life, Veitch applied for the position. The paper’s sports editor interviewed Veitch and told him to write up an account of a fictional football game.
“I wrote it and gave it to him; he read it and hired me based off that article,” said Veitch. “Sports writing just came naturally to me.”
Veitch and Connie have been married for 22 years and have two adult children, Adam and Jessica. In 2014, Veitch welcomed his first grandchild, Carson, into the world.
Veitch nicknamed the boy “Pete” after his own grandfather.
“I would always hear stories about my grandfather Pete, stories about things he did for his family. I grew up idolizing him, although he died when I was too young to remember him.”
Veitch said that he is thrilled with his young grandson but is concerned about the future because of his illness. He regrets that he may pass away before his grandson will be old enough to know him.
“I want him to know me,” said Veitch. “I want to do things with him like take him to games and go fishing.”
“Prior to getting my first sports writing job with The Cherokee County Herald in Centre in 2001, I had never covered a high school sporting event,” said Messenger Publisher/Editor Chris McCarthy. “Stan had been with The Gadsden Times for a few years by then. I remember working my first county basketball tournament at Gaylesville High School and being a little overwhelmed, when Stan came up to me and introduced himself. We talked shop for a while, and before he left that night he told me to call him anytime when I had a question or needed advice about anything. He didn’t have to do that, and I really appreciated that he took the time to do it.
“We’ve been friends and colleagues ever since that night, and over the years I’ve learned a great deal from him and we shared a great many laughs. Stan made the days of countless local high school student-athletes over the years with his articles, and he did so with a crisp and direct writing style that always had a hint of humor. Stan certainly is one-of-a-kind, and I mean that in the best possible sense.”
“I was blessed to be able to share the sideline, court or diamond with Stan countless times through the years,” said Sand Mountain Reporter sports editor Shannon J. Allen. “He was always very helpful to me, and I enjoyed reading his articles and columns. Stan is a terrific reporter and writer who took great pride in his work. Most of all, I appreciate Stan’s friendship and the times we talked about life outside the world of sports. He always knew what to say to make me laugh. I guess he just knew sports writers needed more laughter in their lives.”
“I don’t think Stan has a mean bone in his body,” said Cherokee County Herald sports editor Shannon Fagan. “I’ve never seen him angry at anyone for anything. He’s always been one of the nicest sportswriters I’ve ever met, and I’ve learned a lot from him in the short time I spent working with him at The Gadsden Times.”
“I’ve known Stan now for several years, having met while we were both answering phone calls and writing up ball games at the local daily newspaper,” said Messenger Sports Correspondent Mike Goodson. “We always had interesting and rather unusual conversations, because we could both remember obscure facts about local sporting events. We were both competing for the same job, which Stan got and he went on to write sports for them for several years.”
“Stan loves covering high school sports,” said Lew Gilliland, assistant editor at The Daily Home in Talladega. “While many in our profession strive to end up on a college or professional level, Stan is in his element on the high school beat. I think the reason for that is his love for people. Some people collect stamps, some collect baseball cards, some collect old bottles. Stan collects people. The more people in his circle of friends, the happier he is. I couldn’t possibly keep track of all the times he has called me after getting home from some assignment all excited because he got to talk to a coach or player he hadn’t spoken with before.
“If a person has four or five friends who will stick with them through virtually any circumstance, that person should consider themselves fortunate. I feel fortunate to have four or five friends who fall into that category, and Stan is one of them. He friendship has enriched my life, and I love him like a brother. He is a great high school sports journalist and an even better friend.”
Stan Veitch is a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He is much loved by his family and community, and our prayers are with him.
Publisher/Editor Chris McCarthy contributed to this article.