I remember the first time I met Ryan Patterson and Bud Denega. Patterson came a few months before Denega. My then-coworker Chelsea Coli and I were elated to break the new reporter in.
We plopped him down in a restaurant diagonal to The Sheridan Press, where he would find a home for two years as an education/sports reporter, and asked him the defining questions with which all journalists begin — What’s your birth order? What’s your middle name? Where did you graduate? What internships did you complete? Favorite type of beer?
Instead of shying away, he slowly and gracefully answered each one.
I found out in two years working with him that he approaches all of life in similar fashion.
Patterson covered every story deliberately and with grace. From a man suffering with black lung disease to sweet memories of Sheridan WYO Rodeo week, Patterson found those golden nuggets of information and shared them with a captive audience.
It takes tact and time to evoke emotion in a story, to find one’s voice and to create a space comfortable enough for sources to openly share the most vulnerable moments of their lives.
Patterson did that.
He’s headed up north to his homeland, Wisconsin. He received a job at a larger newspaper closer to his hometown of Green Bay — Go Pack, Go! — so for our subscribers or Wisconsin-natives in the area, be looking out for that familiar byline. Patterson, we’ll miss your voice, creative headlines and Wisconsin accent.
Denega came to The Press three months later. As per tradition, we invited the new member out for drinks. On first meeting, Denega was enthusiastic and decked out head-to-toe in University of Wyoming gear. My first thought of the guy was that he was almost too eager to be having drinks with a total stranger and our boss, Kristen, and was just a little weird.
What I soon discovered, though, is that I hadn’t ever met anyone who matched my overbearing energy for meeting new people and asking ridiculous questions.
That instant connection led to many more ridiculous questions these past two years. For any source, community member or fellow UW alumni, I’m sure you felt the same warmness and energy from Denega as I did on his first day in Sheridan and in many road and camping trips in the Bighorn Mountains.
His charisma woke everyone up each early morning in the office and made for creative sports articles daily. Denega makes every new employee feel welcome with some classic sports-guy hazing and eventual invites to watch a UW football game as long as they promised not to talk before or during the action.
Denega will return to Ohio, where he was born and raised, to attend school and move his love of sports writing into a sports administration role.
For both of these individuals, I never had to worry whether they would follow through with their obligations — without fail, the two completed deep, well-researched articles and kept up-to-date with their beats. They left large shoes to fill, and I will miss them greatly at The Press. I’m also grateful for the precedent set and for their successors.
The three of us worked the final Rodeo Week shift together late into the night Saturday and woke up early Sunday to have one last cup of coffee down the street from The Press. A last set of questions led to great conversations about the best and hardest stories they completed over their two years.
At The Press, coworkers become family. Being a bunch of misfits from all over the nation — and working journalists’ hours — forces us to spend nights, weekends and holidays together and away from our blood relatives. But that camaraderie makes The Press what it is today; it’s what makes the beast that is Sheridan WYO Rodeo enjoyable. Even a 1 a.m. press deadline on a Friday night looks a little sweeter with family by your side.
Bud and Ryan, we’ll miss your charisma and creativity, and we look forward to cheering you on in your next steps in life.