By Shannon Johnson
On Nov. 15, community members gathered at the Fallon County Times office to wish Darlene Hornung a happy retirement after almost 33 years with the Times.
Darlene grew up in Turner, MT where she went to school and graduated. She married her husband, Clayton Hornung. They moved to Havre, MT, where Clayton would attend school at Montana State University-Northern before moving back to Turner to teach for seven and a half years.
Darlene spent her time babysitting and raising her three kids, Tim, Tammy and Julie. That wasn’t what she had planned, however. “I wanted to be a nurse,” she explained. “I had a child right away. I was going to be a mother. I wouldn’t have given up my motherhood. I didn’t want to go to work full-time until my kids were in school.”
In 1977, Clayton interviewed for several teaching positions in Montana, one of them being a job at Baker High School. “He interviewed here and he kind of knew that this was probably going to be the one,” Darlene recalled. “There was not even another thought in our mind that we’d ever move away from Baker.”
After moving to Baker in 1977, Darlene babysat for several more years before going to work for Dr. Reynolds, an optometrist. After working there for some time, they closed the office in Baker. Darlene was out of work for about a month before being contacted by Alice Anderson, who owned the Fallon County Times with her husband Jim. She wanted Darlene to come to work for her in sales.
Darlene accepted after giving the offer some consideration. Within a few months of Darlene working there, Jim and Alice decided to move and asked Darlene to take over the management of the Fallon County Times. “I said that I’d give it a shot,” she said. “Thirty-two and a half years later I’m still here doing it.”
Darlene has been in the newspaper industry through a lot of major changes as the age of technology swept through the early 2000’s. One of her favorite changes that she’s seen has been digital cameras. “During those beginning years I developed film and did pictures in the dark room down in the basement for many years,” she explained. “I was coughing so bad. I think it was probably because of all of the chemicals.”
“Eventually digital came and we didn’t have to print anymore,” she added. “It’s changed so much.”
Darlene has spent decades working with several of her employees. After spending so much time with each of them and developing a comradery, she feels as though that will be one of the most difficult parts of retiring. “Being with the same employees for a long time,” she paused. “It’s tough.”
Along with missing her employees, that isn’t the only aspect of Darlene’s career that she will miss. “The people,” she said. “I don’t care if they came in to complain or to yell at me or whatever. I just like being around the people and visiting with them.” She has found a lot of enjoyment over the years she has spent with the Fallon County Times communicating with and getting to know the people that make up our community.
“I wasn’t ready to retire the last couple of years, but probably about six months ago I thought it was time,” said Darlene. “To pass the torch on and let somebody else take over and see what they can do. I just hope it keeps going. It’s a vital part of our community and its history.”
The long hours were one of the most taxing parts of her career. “When you’re the publisher and manager of a business if somebody else can’t do it you’re always the one that ends up having to do it,” she noted. “So, I ended up putting a lot of hours in.”
Darlene doesn’t have any specific plans for retirement. “I’m just going to take it one day at a time,” she smiled.