When the boss told me he planned to retire, I told him he wasn't allowed.
Though I'd been here for nearly a year and a half, there was still so much to learn from him; I wasn't ready for him to go.
I'd met Mel Rothenburger at various editors' conferences prior to coming to The Daily News and picked his brain now and then via email.
As the most experienced editor in the bunch, he frequently spoke at such gatherings and we listened with rapt attention, wishing we could plug into his mind to assimilate all he knew.
How did he handle calls from bereaved parents after their child's death was broadcast on the front page? How about getting the most out of long-time reporters? Coaching new ones? Juggling the increasing demands of a 24-hour news cycle while companies whittled away newsroom resources?
As a few of us sat around having beers later, he was cordial but remote, making him hard to read.
I lamented to former KDN city editor Susan Duncan (I got to know her at the same gatherings) that with his stony gaze and scant personal chitchat, I was certain Mel thought I was an idiot. But she assured he "really" liked me.
Guess I made a favourable enough impression as he eventually hired me, but our time was too brief - I still don't know it all.
I was rattled upon arrival here to learn that while Mel would retain his own office, he'd also restructured the newsroom so the editors would sit in a pod together. This meant not only would I NOT have my own office but the new boss would sit right beside me - talk about pressure.
He is demanding, expecting us to give readers the clearest, freshest news and photos, grilling us with, "What else have you got?" or "Did you ask (this)?" or "Why didn't you call (that person)?"
Despite being at an age where many of his peers are retired, he continues to be a fount of ideas, retaining such a passion for our craft that he's one of the first in and the last to leave each day.
As a boss, he is calm and reasoned under fire, sure of himself but not full of himself, and instead of simply telling you what to do, helps guide you toward a solution.
Eventually, the nerves about sitting in such close proximity eased; I learned beneath his serious demeanor was a jovial character that I could enjoy laughs with on a daily basis and will miss sorely.
I wasn't ready for him to go but wish him well; after nearly five decades in this business, he surely deserves it. Those outside our industry don't realize how much of ourselves we put into what we write and then dish up for public dissection, a response that can be draining or exhilarating.
I hope we continue to live up to the standards Mel set as we pound the pavement without him.
At his public sendoff on Monday night, he said, "In the news game, we cover all kinds of bad people, but we also cover and get to know the very best of people."
Thanks for being one of the latter, Mel.