We weren't getting a training room, a desktop phone or computer or phone; we weren't even getting a place to meet. My own house, the place I grew up in, had been torn down seven years before. Even the libraries said no.
Eventually, I found a spot, a pizza place that served me since I was too little to reach over the counter. Seemed perfect; good food, a place where friends stopped by to give tips. They got free publicity and a Patch sticker on their window; we got pizza and a place to plan our future.
Things went well for four months, or so we thought. We started to get looks when they could hear my voice, or Don Wilno's voice, rising above everybody else's.
Nicely and diplomatically, they eventually threw us out. "Too loud," they said.
It was a place where Don and I were always the last to leave. Sometimes, they even waited by the door, folding their arms and showing hasty patience as Don and I talked on and on, shooting the breeze about anything, from the state of politics to the state of journalism.
After they told us to leave, I kept coming back on my own, getting the same thing I always got since was 7 or 8 years old. I couldn't stay away.
But not Don. "I haven't been there since they threw us out," he said.
I told I had been, that wasn't going to hold a grudge. I just went back too far with this place. "I'm not going back," he said.
That was Don. Stubborn but loyal. Opinionated but honest. Hardcore and over-the-top, but always worked hard, covering weekends for Patch editors in the Jersey for most of 2011.
Now he's gone. Donald L. Wilno, 65, of Point Pleasant Beach, passed away at home on Wednesday, Aug. 21, after a long illness, according to Legacy.com.
At Patch, he was like a "founding member" at the Jersey Shore, coming in to help when we needed it, and giving us enough room as we set up a news organization that covered Long Branch to Ocean City.
Don had been a sportswriter and restaurant critic at The Asbury Park Press, writing a column called "The Watering Hole." His roots were in Mercer; Don was born in Trenton, formerly of Mercerville. He was a sports reporter at the Trenton Times and then worked part-time at the Trentonian, according to Legacy.com.
But he became a Jersey Shore guy, often talking about how he liked to light up a cigar while staring out at the Manasquan Inlet. Somebody would always ask him to put it out, complaining about the smell.
"You don't like my cigar?" he'd shoot back. Then he'd keep smoking it. To be Don was to be stubborn, even in relaxation.
At Patch, he did some of his most profound work, writing an occasional column on his 91-year-old mother - who survives him - as she suffered through what Don called "severe Alzheimer’s."
I try to cope with the situation, but around holidays and special events at the nursing home, when I hope she would be alert and enjoy the festivities, it’s never like that, not since she has been beset with this horrible disease.
Don and I parted ways; I hadn't talked to him since Hurricane Irene in 2011. He wrote stuff for other publications. We were both stubborn to a fault; I'd like to think that we were both in better places. But our differences were easy to reconcile; we should have stayed in touch.
I remember back to the loyalty he showed two years ago, and how he was willing to do anything to help, as we'd like to say, "around the edges" as we worked long and hard to get things right for Patch at the Jersey Shore.
I wish I had a chance to say "thank you," especially if Don had been ill. I wish I had a chance to show appreciation, especially when I read and remember him, and recall his own words that he had for his mother on Mother's Day, back in 2011. I'd like to think that he felt the same way about friendship that he felt about family.
So on this Mother’s Day, love your mother with all your heart and be thankful your mother is alert, cheerful and enjoying her special day with you.
Make sure you express your feelings to your mother today with a big hug, a big kiss and the words, “I love you mom.” That means so much more than the flowers you bought.
Do it while you still have the chance, and she can understand your love.
I love my mother very, very much. I always will.
You should, too.**********************************************
Funeral services conducted by Mercerville Fire Company will begin on Tuesday, August 27, 2013, at 11:30 a.m., at the Saul Colonial Home, 3795 Nottingham Way, Hamilton Square, NJ.
Interment will follow at Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery in Hamilton.
Family and friends may call on Tuesday, August 27, 2013, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., at the Saul Colonial Home.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Donald's memory to Mercerville Fire Company, 2711 Nottingham Way, Mercerville, NJ 08619.