I have dreaded this day since I first learned that my colleague, friend and mentor, Connie McPherson, had recently opted to stop cancer treatments.
Connie passed away last night.
Just over a year ago, she called my mother and I to her home to make the announcement that she was ill, could no longer do the work she loved, and would be moving in with her daughter, Bobbi's, family to start treatments. She planned to be back in a year.
Though we had been concerned about Connie for some time, the announcement was stunning.
Less surprising was her determination - nor were we shocked by her primary concern: what would happen to the Kiowa County Press?
Connie had been associated with the Press in one way or another for over 40 years, and through a host of owners. She told me many times that she had been bought and sold with the business, and related that she once went on vacation under one owner, and returned to another.
As with everything, she took it in stride and continued to do her job exceptionally well.
For the eight years prior to her announcement, Connie had kept the newspaper running largely on her own. She believed in the importance of keeping people abreast of the goings-on of a community. The machinations of government at any level are one thing, but it was more important to make sure the day-to-day events of the community went out uninterrupted. The community columns, birthdays, anniversaries, births, deaths and other details of daily life were the reason people wanted the paper each week - a far cry from "news" on a state or national scale.
I have never known another person who could be so gruff, determined, and no-nonsense, yet kind-hearted behind the scenes. Connie could stare down unreasonable demands one moment, and yet become a teddy bear the moment her grandchildren were mentioned or passed by the window after school.
She knew the business inside and out, and saw a multitude of changes over her career. The work, and hours, could be grueling, but she took it on in stride. Not without complaint - there were many - but always with an eye to doing better. She told me often that she wanted to see a day when we would advance to the point where everything was perfect and automated so all she had to do was, "push a button, then sit here and look pretty." I don't know that we quite lived up to her goal, but her determination put us very close.
After all these years, there are so many more things that could be said - but she was a strong person who always preferred to remain behind the scenes.
To the Howerton, McPherson and Scott families: thank you so much for sharing such a remarkable, yet unassuming, talent with all of us. We share your grief, and all the good memories. Connie made a difference, and our lives are richer for it.