Sunday, September 18, 2011

Gathering stirs newspaper memories

The memorial service Saturday in Maplewood Cemetery for Margaret Dickerman was cool and damp, but warmed by the renewal of relationships with former co-workers and others who had been part of Mrs. Dickerman's universe. She was remembered for her caring and concern, for her kindnesses, for her membership in "The Greatest Generation," for her faith and for her civic-minded philanthropy.

I was there to pay my respects to a woman who had been wonderfully considerate and kind to my family when we moved to Wilson 31 years ago. She took the time to find a house we could rent until we decided on a permanent home. She recommended doctors and a dentist, insurance agents and other resources for us, strangers in a new town. She drove my wife and small children around town, pointing out landmarks and neighborhoods. One day she brought a pot of hot soup for our lunch. She personified the graciousness of eastern North Carolina, and we were eternally grateful to her for making our difficult transition a little easier.

In my early years at the newspaper her grandfather had founded, her presence was obvious. She wanted everything decorous and proper, which wasn't always possible in a messy news environment. She knew the employees and cared about them. Frequent pot-luck lunches and a grand Christmas party created a genuine sense of unity and cohesiveness. We joked that you might not get rich working there, but you wouldn't starve.

Over the years, the newspaper business changed, that newspaper changed, and Mrs. Dickerman's influence faded as she aged and became less involved. Few recent hires knew her or even knew of her. Gathered beneath that funeral tent Saturday, the old-timers paid their respects and remembered the good times.

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