Have you ever just met someone for the first time and just immediately clicked?
That happened to me last January shortly after I moved to Mayberry, but it’s a relationship that’s all-too-soon coming to an end.
I’m referring, of course, to the impending retirement of Eleanor Powell (Miss Ellie, if you work here at the paragraph factory).
By the time this little column appears in print on Tuesday, Miss Ellie will be two days away from being a mere memory here at The Mount Airy News after a career spanning over six decades.
And what a career!
She attended high school with Andy Griffith, covered some of the most important news in the city’s history and, more importantly, knows everyone.
I have no point of reference with which to view such a career, but that isn’t why I’m going to miss her.
Just more than 11 months ago I walked into this newsroom for my first day, not knowing what to expect or how I would be greeted by the staff and the community.
It’s a good thing, then, that Editor John Peters sat me down at a desk beside Miss Ellie.
In the year that I’ve been here, I’ve shared more laughs with her than anyone else in the county.
Miss Ellie has the kind of open heart and easy smile that makes her a pleasure to be around. I know, because she’s turned around more than one bad day in this reporter’s life.
And she’s been around long enough to understand that a newsroom isn’t always the most genteel, politically-correct place in the world. Reporters are, by nature, filled with black humor and more than a little sarcasm and irreverence.
Call it a coping mechanism after seeing some of the stuff we see in this line of work.
At first I was nervous until I heard her easy laugh at some of my under-the-breath remarks.
And it may be hard to believe, but sometimes I’m not the most cheerful person in the world, especially when planned stories are falling through and my day is going down the toilet.
Fortunately, I have been seated beside someone who understands the pressures involved in putting out a daily paper, and with the attitude to “turn that frown upside-down.”
I remember one day where everything was falling apart and it was after 2 o’clock in the afternoon. At that point I had no idea what was going to be in the paper the following morning.
“Don’t fret about it,” Miss Ellie said with a smile. “I’ve been here for a long time, and I can tell you something always turns up.”
And sure enough, it did.
If you want to know how valuable Miss Ellie is to this community and its newspaper, just witness the head-scratching going on here related to the search for her replacement.
Because there is no one alive who can do the job the way Miss Ellie did.
Keith Strange is a staff reporter at The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.