Longtime sports editor Donn Walden died April 15 at age 50. APSE asked Joey Chandler of NJ Advance Media to share her memories of Donn.
You never forget the people who impact your career for the better when first starting out as a young sports journalist. For me, Donn Walden was one of them.
We first crossed paths working in Central Ohio back in 2006. He was the veteran sports editor of the Delaware Gazette. I was a 22-year-old newbie cutting my teeth at the Mount Vernon News. Our coverage area teams often competed against one another, and we always caught up at state championship events.
His enthusiasm for the profession was contagious, something I’m certain many of you observed when getting to know him through APSE. Our paths continued to cross throughout the years, never working at the same shop but always keeping in touch.
Donn watched my transformation from a rookie to an APSE Diversity Fellow and award-winning writer. It was something he often said he took pride in — just like an older brother would — having known me way back when.
No matter where I was — Ohio, Alabama, North Carolina or New Jersey — Donn remained one of my biggest supporters. He often sent messages of encouragement and checked in to see how I was doing. When he became active in APSE, we were finally able to reunite at the 2018 Nashville convention — I even convinced him to sing karaoke — something I never imagined we’d be doing when we first met all those years ago.
Donn shared a post on Facebook with a photo of us from that night, which is published with story. Its caption means the world to me now: My friend Joey Chandler. She’s on the fast track. A rising star who will knock it out. If I ever get to where I want to, I will do what it takes to get her to my shop. She’s grown so much. She’s also darn good at karaoke and did something no one could ever do! Also if there’s video I’m willing to pay blackmail money if needed! Lol
I wiped the hot tears from my face as I reread the post after learning of Donn’s passing. In that moment, it hit me how special it is to have someone by your side and always rooting for you to succeed, no matter what.
But that’s who Donn was.
He was a special part of our APSE community. He brought so much positivity and light into the lives of his family, friends and countless sports journalists across the country — even the ones that never had the opportunity to meet him in person.
Donn was the type of leader that did everything he could for his staff, coworkers and colleagues in the field. If others were succeeding, then so was he.
Throughout the years, Donn continued to reshare our Nashville photo when it popped up in Facebook memories. In June of 2020, he wrote: Has it been that long? Goodness gracious miss you kid!
I miss you too, Donn. We all do. Rest easy, my friend.
Donn’s obituary from the Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune, where he was the sports editor, and information on where to send donations can be found here.