Local News

June 22, 2014

‘A remarkable human being’

Pace celebrated for his 100 years of friendship, achievement

The picture frame featuring news clips and photos of Mark Pace proclaimed him “A Newspaper Man.” Which he is certainly is.

It proclaimed him “A walking history book,” which he certainly is also.

But at a 100th birthday celebration for Pace, the editor emeritus of The Daily Citizen, on Saturday in the fellowship hall of the First Baptist Church of Dalton, the talk quickly turned to softball.


It seems Pace, who was editor of the Dalton newspaper for 37 years but who also helped bring slow-pitch softball to Dalton in the 1960s, was quite a player.

“Mark is the one who brought slow-pitch softball to north Georgia,” former Dalton mayor Ray Elrod said. “I played on the first team with Mark, he was the pitcher, I played third base.  Mark was a good ballplayer and I think he played until he was, gosh, 60 or so.”

Shelby Peeples also brought up softball when it was his turn to visit with Pace, whose 100th birthday was actually on Friday.

“We had a softball team we played together on,” he said.

To Peeples, Pace said, “We had a lot of fun with those softball games.”

Elrod, who was mayor from 2000-2008 and served on the City Council for 12 years before that, said Pace was the one who brought him back to Dalton. He said Pace hired him in October of 1960 away from a newspaper in Anderson, S.C., when the local paper decided to convert from a weekly to a daily.

“I grew up in Ringgold and married a Dalton girl and we would come home to visit,” Elrod said. “I would always go to the newspaper and visit with Mark. When they started to go daily Mark called me and said, ‘Hey, would you like to come home and help us convert to a daily newspaper?’ and so that’s how I got here.’”

Elrod worked in advertising while of course Pace was in the newsroom. Elrod stayed with the newspaper about three years before going to a local company to help publish the company’s newspaper.

“Mark was a great boss,” he said. “Mark was a joy to work with and he was just easy to work for.”

“Especially if you did your job,” Elrod added, as if not wanting to leave that part out.

“We got to be good friends,” Elrod said. “I would always run into Mark out in the community, and we’ve always been friends and we always talked about the good old times playing ball and working together.”

Pace began his career as a journalist as a freshman in high school in Wauchula, Fla., when he became editor of the school newspaper. He served for 37 years as the editor of the Dalton News, the Dalton Citizen and later The Daily Citizen after the newspapers combined. He “retired” from the newspaper in 1982, but has never really left, for many years serving as a columnist for the newspaper’s Lifestyles section and often visiting the newspaper and calling the paper’s staff with tips and encouragement.

Two publishers who have enjoyed his company paid tribute to him on Saturday.

The Daily Citizen’s current publisher, William Bronson III, presented Pace with a pin and medal from the Georgia Press Association, which inducted Pace on June 5 of this year into the Golden Club for 50 years of service to the newspaper industry. The Golden Club began inducting members in 1964 and now has more than 100 honorees.

“I’ve seen it all,” Pace said in his self-effacing way as Bronson presented him the items.

George N. Clarke, the publisher of the paper from 1970 to 1976, said, “It was indeed my privilege to be associated with Mark Pace at The Daily Citizen on my arrival in Dalton. Dalton, too, has been fortunate in having such a historian of the area’s growth, and the reporting of news without any meanness, for the many years he served as editor. I will always consider it one of my blessings he passed my way.”

Throughout Saturday’s celebration, Pace took time to greet a steady stream of friends, former co-workers, family members and other well-wishers with hugs and laughs, and excited exclamations of recognition and thanks.

Virginia Crow said she had worked with Pace when she was with Georgia Forestry and just wanted to let him know “how good a friend he was to me.”

Another of the clips in the picture frame had the headline “Community leaders toast ‘humble’ Pace” from April 2006 when the League of Women Voters presented a tribute to Pace.

Throughout Saturday’s event Pace was the picture of humility, the friend who is just so glad to see everyone rather than the honoree who demands being the center of attention.

Asked by a reporter, “What do you think of all this?” Pace replied simply, with his ever-present grin, “I’m the same old guy.”

But the love in the room for Pace was not lost on his family.

Middle grandson Mark Westfall, who lives in Birmingham, said, “What’s so nice is he has touched so many people’s lives, he has been such a part of the community, and everyone that’s met him loves him. I’m bragging on him because he’s my grandfather, but anybody here would say the same thing. He is just a remarkable human being. His love of life has, I think, kept him alive for 100 years.”

And still going strong.

“He’s always been in great physical condition,” Elrod, Pace’s softball teammate, noted.

And, Westfall said, “True to form, he won’t sit down and rest and greet people. He wants to stand the whole time. He’s got more vigor than most 50-year-olds.”

Westfall said the family wanted to thank First Baptist Church of Dalton and The Daily Citizen for arranging Saturday’s celebration, and noted the “folks from NGEMC (where Pace worked for many years after retiring from the newspaper) gave him a wonderful party.”

“We’re really touched to have people show up and show they care,” Westfall said.

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