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Now I know how Pluto felt. You remember Pluto, don’t you? That planet was discovered in 1930, and it circled happily along with all the other planets — until 2006, when it was dropped from the celestial club for reasons that were never very clear or satisfying.

It must have made Pluto sad, and now I know exactly how it felt — because after more than eight years of circling happily each week around Collier County, “The View from Planet Kerth” is being dropped from this publication.

This is the last Planet Kerth viewing you will have. And I wanted to take this time to say thanks and farewell to you as I drift off into the void.

It was nothing personal, editor Bill Green assures me: “I’m tasked with using my time to edit hyper-local content,” he explains. “Of which this is not.”

And so: “Columns such as this will no longer have a place in our publications.”

And just like that, Planet Kerth has been Plutoed.

I won’t take this time to argue whether “hyper-localism” is a wise policy for a publication serving a populace that comes mostly from everywhere-else, especially during the winter months. I won’t argue that such a provincial policy smacks of the kind of tribalism that runs rampant all over our troubled world these days.

I won’t, because what’s done is done, and a news outlet has the right to determine its own policy. It has been a privilege to be allowed to reach out to so many Florida readers for so many years, and I thank the Naples News, Marco Eagle, Collier Citizen and Bonita Banner for giving me that chance.

What I will do is spend my last few words on the only people in this journalistic relationship who have ever mattered to me — you and other faithful readers like you.

You know who you are.

You’re Carol S, who wrote just a few days ago to say, “I enjoy your column every week,” and then summarized four of her favorites.

And you’re Nancy D, who lives year-round in Monroeville, Ohio, but whose Naples aunt “always sends your column because we both love what you write about.”

And you’re John B, who wrote to say, “The main reason I welcome the Collier Citizen publication every week is because I know you will have a meaningful as well as humorous and poignant article in it.”

And you’re Maxine B, who said, “Your articles always managed to hold me spellbound,” and then who blessed me for writing one column “which I shall treasure all the days of my life.”

And you’re Mark W, who commented about my “Loneliness vs Aloneness” column: “I learned something new today, thanks to you,” he said. “Great lesson!”

And you’re Ed S, a new reader who said, “I must admit I am beginning to look forward to your column.”

And you’re Greg S, who said, “I enjoy your column every Saturday when the morning paper arrives at the end of our driveway.”

And you’re Regina B, who wrote from Scotland because the joys of Edinburgh weren’t enough to keep her from checking in on Planet Kerth online week after week.

And you’re Janice R, who said, “I’m a big fan and read your column every week. Keep writing … I’ll keep reading!”

Well ….  

That was then. This is now.

Those were just a few of the readers who took the time over the past few weeks to write to me. I could go on — week after week, for more than eight years — including readers too numerous to name who copied the Planet Kerth link time and again to send a story to distant friends and family who have never been to Naples, Florida.

As I said, it has been a privilege to write for you, even if you never wrote back.

But besides thanking every reader who took a few minutes each week to read my column, I especially wanted to thank all of you who wrote to offer me comfort and peace after my wife, Gail, suffered a fatal stroke on Valentine’s Day this February. That was the same day as the Parkland school shootings, and in the midst of your own grief over so many Florida children being murdered, you reached out to hold my hand — more than 50 of you in a single week, and still more in the weeks to follow — all of you comforting souls who didn’t ask or care if I was a “hyper-local” Naples resident or not.

You can’t possibly know how much your letters meant to me. I had lost my wife of 48 years. I had lost my family. But after reading your letters, I realized just how big and loving my family actually was, including brothers and sisters I had only met through paper and ink, and never face-to-face.

And now, that “writer-reader” family will go through yet another drastic change as Planet Kerth floats off into the void. It will hurt — but it won’t be the worst thing that has happened to me this year.

But you know that, because you’re family. You’ve been paying attention, and you understand.

And on Thanksgiving, I’ll be sure to raise a glass at my table to you. Because I’m thankful and proud to call you: “fellow Kerthlings.”

Planet Kerth is drifting away from this local orbit through no choice of my own. I’ll be sad to go, but I’ll still be out there in the void somewhere, telling tales. If you look hard enough you’ll be able to find me some other-where, in some galaxy that values “universality” more than “hyper-localism.”

Anyway, Pluto, if you’re out there, do you want to sail around together for a while? I’ve got nothing but time, and I hear it’s a beautiful universe, once you look past your own zip code. We can have some lively times — and think of the tales we can tell, even if there’s nobody to tell them to!

I hear there’s a great little bar at the end of the Milky Way. Let’s go!

The author splits his time between Southwest Florida and Chicago. Not every day, though. Contact him at trkerth@yahoo.com. Get T.R.'s book, 'Revenge of the Sardines,' available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine online book distributors.

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