by Heidi M. Pascual
|Celebrating a Special Friendship
When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand,
And nothing, nothing is going right …….. You got a friend. -- Carole King
Betty Franklin-Hammonds, the late editor and publisher of The Madison Times, a noted civil rights activist and former head of the Urban League of
Greater Madison, passed in the spring of 1999. It was only a few months after I landed in Madison as a new immigrant from the Philippines. Betty
was the first person in Madison who recognized my potential as an editor and journalist, and she hired me as her assistant editor the day she
interviewed me for the position. We were just beginning to know each other, but we had become quite close during the time she became my boss,
so I was truly devastated when she unexpectedly died.
Her trusted best friend and another civil rights activist, Jonathan Gramling, replaced her as editor of The Madison Times, at that time a well-known
multicultural newspaper that focused on news and feature stories about people of color, their struggles, successes, needs, and dreams. Jon to
close friends, relatives and acquaintances, Gramling kept Betty’s staff and renamed my working title “associate editor.” Gramling and I worked hard
to keep Betty’s legacy alive, keeping tabs of most events that highlighted people of color, most especially African Americans, whose status and
condition in Madison and other cities of Wisconsin, left much to be desired. I learned so much about people of color, the civil rights movement, the
dark past of American History when slavery was the norm, the almost-wiping out of Native Americans, and the still-existing discriminatory although
subtle subjugation of Blacks in American society.
Jon Gramling became my best friend in no time at all. Our professional lives became interwoven with our personal lives, that the problem of one
became the problem of the other. We shared similar interests, enjoyed covering different events together, had fun sharing new learning experiences,
and helped each other when one needed a shoulder to cry on.
When I left The Madison Times after 6 1/2 years working with Jon, I started my own magazine focused on Asian Americans, and Jon helped me with
so many technical issues that made publishing my magazine smoother and easier. Jon has been a regular consultant, for free, which to a
“foreigner” like me, was truly a blessing from above. And when Jon started his own newspaper, The Capital City Hues in 2006, I was there to support
his efforts and became his managing editor and webmaster. Our publications were like sister publications in more ways than one, because we
always agreed to reprint anything present in the other. I became one of the co-owners of The Hues, sharing Jon’s dream of providing a platform for
voices of people of color, and working hard together from event coverage, editing, layout, distribution, public relations, and Internet presence.
When recession hit in 2008, the printing industry was one of the biggest losers, forcing even giant companies to fold. Minority publications followed
suit, as fewer and fewer ads (the only source of our revenue) came in until it was impossible to continue. I decided to stop printing my magazine and
focus on online-only publishing, hoping that in a year or so, I’d be back printing, But it never happened. I had to leave Madison, with an added
consideration that my petition for immigration of my children and their families was not showing any progress. I decided to go back to my native
country in 2010, focused on bonding with my family while still continuing my online magazine and The Hues’ website.
I hated to leave Jon and The Capital City Hues newspaper, but I had no choice. My best friend decided to rent my condo in Fitchburg (where he still
publishes The Hues), to help me take care of its mortgage. For 10 years now, Jon has taken care of this property’s requirements, without giving me a
headache. I would like to take this opportunity to tell Jon that the place he is renting now should be his own, for he has stayed there longer than I did.
Whatever arrangement he proposes on it, I would gladly accept, for my best friend.
Jon has also made sure that I keep my part-time job as The Capital City Hues’ webmaster, for he knew I needed a paid job when I left Madison. For
an employer who considers distance as important in terms of close supervision, perhaps hiring a local Madisonian was the best option. But
Jon trusted how I worked and liked the product of such work. Since the
beginning of The Capital City Hues, I have been Jon’s companion and co-
worker in making it takeoff.
It has been 14 years since we started The Hues, and I have been away
from Madison for 10 years. But Jon and I have maintained a relationship
that is so special and out of the ordinary. Until now, Jon takes care of
everything I am required to do in Madison, while I take care of improving
The Hues’ website in consideration of its readership and latest
technological availability. While distance has kept us missing each other’s
company, technology and The Hues have kept us bound together in a
special friendship that’s probably made in heaven.
Thank you, Jon Gramling, for your friendship. You are one of the blessings
the Lord poured on me in this life’s journey.