Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Over the weekend I was in Winston Salem with my two brothers, my wife and one sister in law celebrating an achievement of one aunt who worked as a professional sports writer and one aunt who has lived a life of service.

The aunt who was a sports reporter was awarded the Red Smith Award which the AP gives to outstanding sports reporters. Mary Garber was a sports reporter on the Winston Salem paper for more than 50 years. She is the first woman to receive the award. There is a good story about her on the Women Sports Writers Association page. She started when the males on the paper went to WWII. They came back and rather than being relegated to the society page she convinced her editor to stay in sports. There are lots of stories about her contacts and friendships with major sports figures of the century (Jackie Robinson, Carl Ellers, Big House Gaines, Billy Jean King) but the real stories are her friendships and stories about the athlete who had one crowning moment. I can't tell you how many times in the last 30 years, when I have visited, that some grey headed gentleman has come up to the table - pulled out a yellowed press clipping about some long forgotten high school game that Mary wrote about and and then wanted to say hello to "Miss Mary." The importance of sports in our society should not be underestimated.

Her younger sister, Cornelia, lived a slightly different life. She took care of three members of my family -first her dad, then her mom and now her sister. She contributed to the community in a raft of volunteer activity - book clubs, service leagues, little theater. While Mary is slightly introverted, Neely is the extrovert - always the life of the party. She is able to tell stories with the best of them. Many of them are true - many are also funny. Both of them examplify simple contributions to their community. Mary has been more visible than Neely but both seem to cut in at all levels of society.

On Sunday, they held a BBQ with their next door neighbors for the neighborhood. It was amazing in two ways. First, that these two ladies had lived in the same house for more than 80 years. That is an achievement in itself. Second, the neighborhood, which is made up of a pretty diverse group of people - are all appreciative of the contributions that both have made to the neighborhood. Those contributions have been large and small. For example, on Saturday morning a group of Black business people came over to the nursing home where Mary is recovering to wish her well. They were very kind - but clearly reflected the affection that she had offered in covering high school and college games in the area. A story is told about Mary going to a Black high school long ago where one young student said to another "What is that White woman doing at our school?" The other kid said something like "That is Mary Garber and if you do something good she will write about it in the paper." Those were from the larger community - but one attendee for the BBQ called them the "glue" that holds the neighborhood together.

On Sunday morning we went to church with Neely - at the church where my parents were married. The church is a grand old place - very similar in age to the one my wife grew up in. Part of the service was for Neely to show off her relatives to her buddies. But part of it for me was a chance to reconnect to something that has been in my family for a very long time.

This weekend was a good chance to see my two brothers (sister Nancy was working) and my two aunts. But it was also a chance to re-educate myself about what is important in life. If you want to see the people involved I did a website at my home page but you can get to it directly by clicking HERE

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