June 9, 2011

Coffee Mug #1: Jerry Storey



Most of us have a collection of coffee mugs. Mine are hanging on a board, decorating the top of my kitchen-porch windows like a valence. I maintain the collection at a number that my hooks allow—twenty-two. If I purchase or receive a new mug, I must remove another. Thus, only the most meaningful mugs have the privilege of claiming a hook. Each has a special story to relate, which will be titled Coffee Mug #…

     One mug from which I sip my morning coffee, while reading the Greensburg Tribune-Review and taking my heart meds, takes me back a few years—especially the last years that I wrote for the Fay-West section of that newspaper, up to July 2003. Jerry Storey was my third editor at the  newspaper, following in the footsteps of Paul Heyworth and Ed Cope. He himself walked in the footsteps of his father, a well-known journalist in the community. He was an honest and kind man.

     I recall that when I started freelancing he did photography—and perhaps an occasional news story—for the paper. He occasionally edited my work while I sat next to the desk. But I didn’t get to know him until he became editor of the weekly section. Then I sat with him almost weekly as he critiqued my work, tweeking it to improve it.

     If Jerry found a problem or correction in my work he would apologize for making necessary changes. Sometimes he would say he wanted to change a word because he just didn’t like it, not necessarily because there was a better word. I would look at him and say change it, just as long as I receive a check for my work.

     The staff could always identify Jerry’s coffee mug. It was the heavily brown-stained cup sitting on the corner of his desk while he worked. It was never scrubbed.

     Occasionally I teased him about the mug, telling him I was going to “lift” it. I told him that as a lowly freelancer, I didn’t get to go to functions where these mugs were distributed, and I wanted one, I felt I deserved one.

     I whined to him throughout one editing session. I whined so much that he finally caved, presenting me with the stained mug. I showed my treasure to the office girls, and we all concluded the stains couldn’t be removed. We were wrong. The mug I use today is clean and shiny inside, with no evidence of its previous state.

     At the time Jerry became editor, my husband Monte and I were preparing to leave the community. Monte was retiring and we were moving an hour’s drive away, to the community where my daughter lived. I began traveling to that community regularly to watch my granddaughter while my daughter and my former son-in-law worked. I enjoyed transitioning into the new community, but found I couldn’t maintain my writing schedule, so I cut back on the number of articles I produced.

     When Monte retired in 2003 he and I took a three-month trip to New England. It wasn’t until I returned that I learned Jerry had passed away, in August, while I was gone.

     Jerry had suffered health problems, but wouldn’t cut down on his work. He had very few writers helping him with his section (when I started working on the section, there were three times the workers). He couldn’t do less work and still hold his job. I’d heard that he needed the job for the benefits, and so was locked into it.

     I value the mug and its memories, and Jerry’s input on my writing career. I’ve considered allowing my coffee to stain the mug in his honor, but have never done so. I like it clean and shiny.









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