As I write this column, late on Monday night, it has just been a dreadful day.
Early this morning I got word that Ramona Davis had passed away. Though I’ve been busy all day, thoughts of her have popped into my head literally every few minutes.
I realize a great many people had a much longer history with Ramona than I did. But we were attached at the hip in many ways that have come to me over and over again.
She was my predecessor in the editor’s chair at this newspaper ... or at the newspapers that preceded the Eastern Wake News. Early in my work here in 2007, Ramona bee-bopped into the office and introduced herself and told me how excited she was to have me at the newspaper. She introduced herself, not as the former editor of the Gold Leaf Farmer, but as June Sanders’ mother. June, of course, was the longtime office manager at this newspaper. She went on to tell me about her work at the newspaper and about how she used to hold the feet of elected officials in Wendell to the fire.
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She told me that some of those elected officials used to get really, really mad at her. And, though Ramona was a petite woman in stature, she held her own with the big boys and she told me I should do the same. A lot of well-known editors have come and gone at this newspaper since Ramona and her husband sold it in the early 1980s. Dewey Whitaker was here for a time. Marty Coward wielded a sharp editor’s pen.
But Ramona never, ever lost her faith in the value of the local newspaper. When I last saw her a handful of weeks ago, she was standing behind the receptionist’s desk as I came down the stairs. She told me about a story she thought we might be interested in.
Ramona and I shared another love in Rotary. She was president of the Zebulon club the same year I was president of the Wendell club and we were, in essence, presidential classmates. We shared ideas, celebrated successes and trouble-shot our shortcomings. I learned really quickly that she was a wealth of ideas and encouragement.
Even after we completed our presidential terms of office, Ramona would stop by and we would talk about Rotary business. She had seen much of the world, in part because of Rotary and she never wanted to lose a second when the opportunity came to share her experiences. Life in the newspaper business gets mighty busy, but she was one of a handful of people I never minded seeing walk through the door on even the busiest of days. I knew I would be richer for the time she spent with me.
In thinking about her today, I did a quick search of my computer to see how many times her name showed up. The list filled the screen.
One of the files was a copy of an online column her late husband, Barrie Davis, had written for us to publish on our website in the Highway 264 series.
In that column, Barrie told this story:
“I always enjoy hearing the old story about the Sunday the preacher asked from the pulpit: “Everybody who wants to go to Heaven, stand up!” The entire congregation stood except old Joe Jones on the back row. “Don’t you want to go to Heaven, Joe?” the preacher asked. “Yes, Pastor,” replied Joe, “but I thought you meant right now!”
Ramona’s “right now” came this morning. She left a lot of unfinished business on this earth, but that was only because she had so much business to take care of.
Ramona never held elected public office but, my goodness, she sure was a public servant.