Katy Byrne Katy Byrne, MFT is a Psychotherapist in Sonoma, editor and animal lover. Her private practice specializes in: life transitions, couples communication, eating issues, moving forward, conflict resolution and the kitchen sink.


Dearest Val

Posted on March 2, 2024 by Katy Byrne

March 2, 2024

Dearest Val,

After all the years of wrestling with the challenges of keeping print alive, I am so deeply sad and lost to have you gone. Good God, you were the godfather of The Sun.

I have waited to write – waited for words and still find them sitting empty next to the suddenness of your dying. It’s like not having any water to drink when I’m thirsty for it … waiting for your next correspondence. I even started to send this writing to you – instinctively, like the deadlines of fifteen or so years. Then, I caught myself about to send…and caught my breath instead – Val’s not here.

Oh I know, I know, I know all the clever and well-intended slogans slung. I’ve tried to write them all and they landed with a thud. I thought of words like, “we all die someday, at least you didn’t suffer long,” and on and on but that’s not really the truth of how your death feels to me Val.

I’m sorry, I know you’re leaning over a long wood bar in heaven with your beer telling me to just be me – which you always helped me be. But, truthfully, losing you, for me, is like having tornadoes sweep through Sonoma Valley, ripping off roofs and swooping down on daffodils, lurching at our sweet dogs … it leaves our village less alive –wanting, wondering how to replace what was once a precious newsprint full of bright pictures, captured in The Sonoma Sun and people on the streets talking about their local lives, quandaries and triumphs.

I don’t want to sound dramatic but frankly, your dying is hard. It’s just that you were always there.

I had my “deadlines” and you crept up behind them, devotedly, an artist in the field.

Maybe you were a father figure or a friend supporting my voice, I don’t know. I do feel like few people in my life really ever supported my voice, the way you did. Because of your invite, I got to play in the sandbox of writing, along with others, such a quirky wide range of voices…in our valley.

Oh, I know if you were here what you’d say, tell me to stick to the point and focus. So here’s my point…I miss you, I always will.  We don’t know what we’ve got until we lose it. Now looking back on my years of life, I see that some people are never replaced. There are no duplicates for you, no edits that can fill the space.

I hope you are smiling and enjoying your reunion with Kathy, your wife of many years who died within months of your leaving.

But, damn it, I miss your deadlines and this one is the toughest one yet.

In Deep Appreciation, Katy Byrne

One thought on “Dearest Val

  1. Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley lost a huge champion of our club a few days back. Val Robichaud accommodated us in so many ways, helping us promote the club’s activities.

    Val published virtually anything we sent him, and we sent him a lot of good news about our club and the people we help.

    When we bought ads for the Luck o’ the Irish raffle and our old Applause event, Val always put our ads in the premium places – for no extra charge, and when there was extra space, he gave it to us.

    Last year for Luck o’ the Irish, Val gave us at least two free half page ads (might have even been three). He gave us a discount this year off their nonprofit rates for our ads and threw in a web ad for no charge. He was a wonderful soul, but probably not much of a businessman.

    When we were seeking candidates for grants – and then when we gave the grants out – Val printed anything we submitted, photos and all. And we always got the front page of the website.

    When we collaborated with Catalyst Fund to help small businesses mitigate the challenges Covid brought, he did everything we could ask to get the word out to small business that needed help.

    When we produced the “Here’s Rotary of Sonoma Valley” paper, Val got it printed and distributed for us, and continued to fill the news racks with it until the supply was gone.

    But his support was ESPECIALLY critical during our schism a few years back… Once he heard the truth behind the split, he agreed that there was no need to sling mud.

    As important as anything, he was a gentle soul who was the only paid staffer on that paper. Val and a couple of others bought the newspaper from Bill Hammett, one of our own Rotarians. In time, it was just Val running things – and getting the word out as an alternative source of news and information for the Valley.

    At our lunch today (3/6/24), Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley passed that hat and we raised $1,250 in honor of Val’s wonderful help for all of us in the valley. We trust Annie will use it wisely.

    Thank you, Val. We will miss you greatly.

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