The guest list read like a Who’s Who of Oklahoma media and state politics.

Former Governor George Nigh, retired Oklahoma Press Association executive vice president Ben Blackstock, Senate Pro Tempore Emeritus Stratton Taylor, Sen. Sean Burrage, retired publisher Jim Miller, State Secretary of Education Sandy Garrett, OPA executive Mark Thomas and cnhi executive Gloria Fletcher.

Also in attendance were local community people of note: Police Chief Mickey Perry, retired Progress executive editor Pat Reeder, former Progress staff writer Dorothy Willman, Oologah Lake Leader publishers John and Faith Wylie and Musgrove-Merriott-Smith funeral service director Jim Smith.

The evening’s emcee was former NBC Today Show host Jim Hartz, who also sits on the Will Rogers Memorial Commission.

Miranda McCool, daughter of Progress advertising employee Kim McCool, provided vocal entertainment.

But those were just the a few of the people who, under the watchful eye of Will Rogers’ statue, came Thursday night to toast and roast Dave Story, retiring publisher of the Claremore Daily Progress.

Speakers applauded Story with candor and critical humor as a person who will go down in Rogers County’s history as one of the Claremore Daily Progress’ most renown and influential publishers.

Dave Story announced his plans to leave the Progress after 20 years at its helm, ending a 58-year career in journalism. Almost 50 years of Story’s career were as publisher for newspapers across Oklahoma.

Thursday’s reception and roast in his honor at the Will Rogers Memorial was noted as not only the closing of a chapter in Story’s career, but also the closing of an era of Oklahoma journalism.

Hartz set the tone for the evening of congratulations, memories and humor.

“Dave said people are angry at the media these days. They think we have too much power, we’re arrogant and answerable to no one. (Story’s) answer, ‘Eat your heart out,’” Hartz said.

Story’s knack for writing statewide political endorsements garnered more than a few comments throughout. Taylor called Story “one of a kind and the last of his breed in the sense he really did call it like he saw it.”

Thomas, whose work with the OPA places him in contact with every newspaper across the state, said, “If it weren’t for Dave’s editorials, some newspapers wouldn’t have any editorials at all.”

Also introduced were numerous letters of congratulations including notes from former governor David Walters and retired journalist Frank Boggs, and a proclamation by Gov. Brad Henry.

Henry’s congratulations included a notation about Democrat Story’s endorsement of Republican Steve Largent in 2002 over Henry.

Blackstock said the only excuse for a bad newspaper are laziness, lack of ability and lack of courage. “None of those apply to Dave,” he said. His assessment of Story’s job performance over the last 50 years, “He has comforted the afflicted and done his best to afflict the comforted.”

Claremore businessman and funeral home director Smith, told the audience, “Half of them are here because they really like you; the other half because they just want to make sure you are retiring.”

Smith who was a vocal opponent to the newspaper charging for obituaries, said, “If you get a DUI, your name will be in the paper; if you owe taxes, your name will be in the paper, but if you die it’s going to cost you.”

Walters wrote: “Dear Dave, You cannot leave. Who else is going to write those paint-peeling, skin-melting, Republican heart-stopping editorials that you were famous for. Every statewide Democrat candidate has for decades depended on your scathing attacks on their opponents and on the exalted praise of themselves so they can immediately rush your editorials into their mailings and onto their Web sites. ... Your editorials have a higher frequency of framing in Democrat officials’ offices than any other newspaper in Oklahoma. Common decency does not allow me to say what Republicans do with them.”

Boggs wrote: “Dave Story has devoted his life to being a truly outstanding newspaper man. He has a sense of humor that he blends perfectly with honesty and fair play. Everywhere he has worked the community has benefited.”

Perry said: “You don’t realize how many people you have influenced in this town.”

Former Will Rogers Museum director Joe Carter called Story a friend and “Oklahoma’s finest publisher.”

“We should be memorializing a man who has worked hard and profoundly to improve his community and his state against all odds and oddballs,” Carter wrote.

cnhi executive Kevin Kampman wrote: “When you (Story) add things up at the end of a career, it’s even impressive for a yellow dog Democrat.”

GRDA CEO Kevin Easley wrote: “The more advertising I bought, the better you understood public power.”

Taking note of Story’s retirement, Nigh said: “Know that wherever you are, as much as you love Claremore, Claremore loves you back that same amount, and as much as you love Oklahoma, Oklahoma loves you back that same amount.”

Story said he believes his mission “is to take it as I found it and leave it better.”

Story’s immediate retirement plans call for holidays with his wife, Claudia, daughter Tamra and son-in-law Chris Lankford, and granddaughter Abigail. Then, he hopes to take a long overdue trip to his Mississippi birthplace.