As Lorie Williston retires from her position as president of Black Press-B.C. North she will be leaving behind a void stretching from Ashcroft to Queen Charlotte City in the communities where the company owns newspapers.
Her love for her job and eagerness to support the people she works with have helped build the company’s success.
When asked to reflect on her years with the company, she did not hesitate to admit how much she has loved it.
“I’ve been pulling into the Tribune parking lot for more than 35 years,” she said during a quick interview between dozens of phone calls. “That says to me that I love my job, I love the people I work with and I love the place I live.”
Her newspaper career began in the early 1980s when her mother-in-law, Sharon Williston, told her that David Black, who owned the Williams Lake Tribune, and his publisher, Bob Grainger, needed a data entry clerk.
“I started out part-time and then started working more as I was part of the new Cariboo Press, which was acquiring papers, and expanding and growing,” Williston said. “We ran our head office out of Williams Lake.”
Eventually she became the payroll clerk in 1988, and was appointed controller in 1994, all the time juggling being a mother.
“I remember one time I couldn’t get a babysitter so I brought the kids with me in their pajamas and put them to bed on the floor,” she recalled. “I worked all night and greeted everyone as they arrived in the morning, saying I had to go but everything was done.”
From 2001 to 2003, while she was still the controller, she also took over as publisher of the Tribune, handling dual roles for two years until she became vice-president of Cariboo Press.
In 2005, with continued acquisitions, the decision was made to split the Interior in two divisions and Williston was appointed president of Black Press-B.C. North.
When he announced her appointment, Grainger, who was by then the chief operating officer of Black Press Ltd. praised Williston.
“She really understands newspapers and has a passion to excel,” he said. “Our company is very fortunate to have such a multi-talented person.”
To this day, Williston said she remains grateful to Grainger and Black for encouraging her.
“Bob Grainger was my mentor and the one that pushed me to take on more and grow my career over the years,” she said. “And I do not think I know a more approachable, genuine person than David Black.”
Through the years there were opportunities for her to leave Williams Lake to transfer with the company, however, Williston said she always turned them down.
She wasn’t born in Williams Lake, but considers it her hometown, she said.
In the early 70s at the end of Grade 6, she moved to the lakecity with her parents, Gordon and Doreen Cheek.
Gordon had come to Williams Lake to build homes that would house Gibraltar Mine workers.
“My dad and mom had grown up with Bruce Watt in Chilliwack. He had moved to Williams Lake and was living here when we arrived.”
Crediting Watt for encouraging her family to get into horses, Williston said she became very involved showing horses and going to rodeos.
After they’d been in Williams Lake about a year and a half, her dad bought 60 acres of property from Watt out near the Sheep Creek Bridge and moved the family there.
“We loved Williams Lake because of the horses and the lifestyle,” she said.
During high school at Columneetza, she and Mike Williston became sweethearts.
In 1976 they were BC High School Rodeo team roping champions and she was B.C. High School Rodeo Queen.
They travelled to Sulphur, Louisiana to compete in the finals.
Reminiscing about her roping skills as teen, she described Mike as an awesome roper.
“I could hold my own, but I was not as good as he was.”
In 1977, she graduated from Columneetza and was crowned Williams Lake Stampede Queen.
She and Mike were married, not long after her graduation, and bought some property off her dad.
“Mike grew up here too and we are still proud to say Williams Lake is home. Both our boys — Lee and Kyle — were born here, and it’s where they are raising their kids with their wives.”
Williston said the main reason she’s retiring is because she wants to spend more time with family and she feels she’s leaving the company when it is moving in a positive direction.
“One of the things I have enjoyed the most is the people I’ve worked with over these many years,” she added. “We proudly used to refer to ourselves as the ‘Cariboo Press’ family and our motto was ‘we work hard and we play hard.’ I always said that our employees are the company’s greatest asset and that remains true.”
Black Press has been great to work for, she added.
“The industry has changed so much, but they’ve allowed us to change with it. It’s been exciting to be part of.”
Read More: Williams Lake Tribune Advisor