You’re our ace in the hole, Carol

I started working at Van Zandt Newspapers in mid-2013, setting my proofreading skills on what was then all the copy that went into the paper. My efforts helped a little, but I distinctly remember overhearing my publisher telling my past editor, “We really need to have a retired English teacher come in and help us proofread.” Hearing those words, the wind was taken out of my sails, but I realized it wasn’t exactly my grammar and spelling that needed improvement rather it was a lack of refinement of age. Refinement as in was I old enough to understand things that happened before I was born? Or understand politics, past cultural events or things they don’t teach you in six years of college?  No, I was not. That kind of stuff can only be learned if you didn’t live it and taught by someone who had a first-hand knowledge of times gone by.

I can tell you now that I’ve been thoroughly educated, and am still learning, by one of the greatest women I’ve ever met, Carol Whatley. Carol routinely comes to Van Zandt Newspapers offices every Tuesday and Thursday to lend us a hand with proofreading our papers before they go to press. Carol occasionally writes columns for the newspaper, always with a bit of wit and charm or a funny story about one of her many dogs or her First Husband.  She has some big brains for such a small body, and an even bigger heart.  Lately, I roped her into writing a recipe column, which she does grudgingly.  She really is one of the best southern cooks that I know of. Regardless of political status, she always has insightful points of view from the other side and always has an answer to an odd question or two that I might throw her way. A pro at trivia and crosswords, a whiz at grammar, I honestly don’t know what we would do without her. She has saved the newspaper many embarrassing moments, and honestly proofreading is a talent. She can spot an error a mile away and then just shakes her head and circles it in her orange pen. Just don’t walk up behind her and spook her while she is in her proofing zone, she’ll likely jump about half a foot and then scold you for sneaking up on her.

Carol works for us a volunteer. Volunteers that are English experts and have a sharp eye and wit are uncommon. She rarely misses a day and always makes the day a little brighter and livelier when she comes.  I give Carol most of the credit for making our papers grammatically correct and making sure I know the difference between cavalry and Calgary, banana and bandana, roll versus role and so on. We all love her dearly and would be remiss without her. This week, we are celebrating her birthday, but I won’t tell you how old she is. I can say that nothing goes to print without making sure that Carol has seen it first. She’s our ace in the hole. When she does decide to leave us, I know we will all be panicking about who will take her place, if she could ever be replaced. If she did leave, we would miss her Homer Simpson pants, stories of her plethora of dogs, her grandchildren and First Husband. You’re just not allowed to leave yet Carol. We need you too much.  Happy Birthday from all of us at Van Zandt Newspapers.