From the Publisher's Desk: Life cut short, then and now

By Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate June 07, 2012 01:00 am

It was easy to decide what to write about this week. With the timeliness of publishing on Election Day, there were two related themes running through my head: I wanted to hammer home the importance of voting and also share some recollections of another California primary 44 years ago.

For a week I’ve been forming sentences in my head about how I had learned from my father, a naturalized citizen, how sacred the privilege of voting is. It is, he told me, the most basic tenet of our democracy. He said going to the polls (and I still do go rather than vote by mail) is an event to look forward to and I do get excited each Election Day.

And I get sad.

Sad and discouraged because as an idealistic barely-turned-18 year old, I, along with three classmates, walked precincts, made phone calls, stuffed envelopes and worked long hours to help Robert F. Kennedy win the California primary in 1968. As a reward for our efforts we were invited to be among special guests at the Ambassador Hotel to await, with the Kennedy entourage, the election results that fateful night.

As I contemplated today’s election and writing this column, I sifted through the emotions and the images that make up my memory of that very personal moment in history in the early morning hours of June 5, 1968. I braced myself to recount the details again.

Continuing our commitment, my girlfriends and I spent our last summer in Los Angeles before going off to college in crowded malls and parking lots soliciting signatures in favor of gun control.

I wanted to remind you in this column that even though I couldn’t vote (you had to be 21 in 1968), I still believed with all my heart that one person’s voice, one person’s action could make a difference.

But then a few days ago tragedy struck again, and now I have a different story to share, a story about another single person who made a difference.

In the early hours of Friday morning, I received a call from our press manager, Randy Davis. His is often a thankless job, as he oversees our Smith River printing plant with a crew of about a dozen people at night when most of us are asleep. He has to maintain the property, the equipment, schedule and train staff, and bears the brunt of my scrutiny if papers are late or don’t come off the press “perfect.”

Like most of us in this business, our hours are determined by the work. It’s rarely a Monday through Friday, 8-5 routine. In Randy’s case, it’s common for him to go to the plant in the early afternoon and not leave until 3 in the morning.

Randy’s wife Cathy understood her husband’s unusual schedule and took up the role of surrogate mother to the crew at the printing plant. She made meat loaf and then would have Randy take leftovers to the plant. Ironically she didn’t like meat loaf, but she knew “the kids” did. And then there were the crock pots of spaghetti and platters of cookies.

When Randy called me around 1:45 a.m. Friday, he said Cathy had experienced pain in her left arm and jaw and he’d rushed her to the hospital. While there her heart stopped and she was being flown to Medford. About four hours later he called back to say, “we lost her.”

Cathy Davis turned 57 on May 1. She had a physical a month ago and was in “excellent health.” What caused the blockage in a main artery to her heart? What made it so bad that medical intervention couldn’t change the outcome?

Our Triplicate family is in shock. There’s a hole in our hearts. We want to embrace Randy, his son, daughter, Cathy’s parents and the rest of their family and friends and tell them how very sorry we are and how much Cathy will be missed.

Friday night at the plant “the kids” stood tall, telling me they would do whatever they had to do, stay as late as they needed to stay, to get the job done. They made me very proud. Everyone in our company has made similar gestures.

Vote today. Then turn to your spouse, your partner, your child, your sibling, your friend, your co-worker and tell them how much you appreciate them.

 “Life is short, there is no time to leave important words unsaid.” (Paul Coelho)

Reach Michele Thomas, the Del Norte Triplicate’s publisher, at mt­ho­mas­@triplicate.com, 464-2141 or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.