April 14, 2010

Brief message leads to obituary, reminder of impact 1 person, 1 journalist can have

I hate catching up with people's lives through obituaries, especially people who are younger then me. I love stumbling across reminders of how important local journalism is.

A friend's note and an Internet search let me know what happened to a colleague who started at The Flint Journal the same day I did. Sadly, I learned:

Mercury News writer Holly Hayes dies of cancer - San Jose Mercury News "

She was 53, diagnosed with a rare cancer in June. The obituary in the San Jose Mercury News, the newspaper she was working for shared just a glimpse of her heart and love for community. A blogger shared the reminder of the impact one person and local journalism can have.

5 on the 5th

Holly was one of the  Sept. 5, 1978 Five  at The Flint Journal. Holly and I were hired in what some called the "real" newsroom and the three other women were hired as lower-tier weekly reporters. Two of us stayed until we were bought out in 2008, changing jobs frequently throughout the years. One returned for freelancing for a short time.

One of her first journalism jobs was at the Flint newspaper, where she covered the United Auto Workers union, among other assignments. She graduated from Central Michigan University in 1978.

I had caught up with her once when she was a features editor at The Fresno Bee, as that is near where my mother was living. In 1990, she moved on to the Mercury News as an assistant features editor.

Still writing

Linda Goldston wrote the obituary that highlights how Holly kept working and writing even after being diagnosed. That didn't surprise me.

Neither did learning that she was still into gardening. We lived in the same neighborhood for a few years and often talked about gardening and art as well as journalism.

I also remember how disappointed, and yet supportive, she was when I decided a trial separation was going to be permanent. She had planned on moving into the house I had, with its neat little backyard and tiny garden. But despite her disappointment, she helped me realize I was making the right move.

Read the obituary and the guest book  for more about her and her generous heart and ways. I like that the newspaper has a tradition of flying its flag at half mast during the days between death and a memorial service.

Be like her

A California blogger also wrote about how Holly, through her columns, had become an inspiration and a friend:
"I would daydream about leaving my high tech marketing job, flipping off the man, and living a life immersed in soil, food, sunlight and writing. I daydreamed about contacting Holly Hayes and asking if I could be her protege. Could I follow her around and learn how to be like her? "
I wonder if Holly knew what an impact she made:
"She was a big piece of my perfect moment puzzle. My peace. My sitting there, coffee in hand, reading about her gardening advice and adventures. She inspired me, made me feel like I could be an even better version of myself. She allowed me to daydream about a life with my hands covered in rich, sweet-smelling soil, digging for worms in my compost, with my son, a life where I provided the perfect, organic eggplants for my family to eat."

There's more in the blog post and comments. But I like remembering this from the blogger:

"This, I realized, is the importance of local journalism. Holly felt accessible to me. She felt like a friend. We lived in the same area, we worked the same soil.

That's the impact a journalist who has friends outside the newsroom, who participates in the community and who loves what they are do can have.

What a wonderful triute.


Post a Comment