Right now, I am checking my phone every few minutes to see if my friend Meredith has given birth to her daughter, Abigail. She texted a bunch of us at 3 in the morning, saying her contractions were 3 minutes apart, so I’m betting it will be any moment now.
At the same time, I am trying to gather my thoughts so I can write about my dear former co-worker Sue Minton, who died suddenly last week. Her passing has left a gaping hole in the hearts of all who knew her, and my hope is to figure out a way to somehow help lessen that vacancy by filling it with honor.
The fact that birth and death are sitting side by side me this morning is something Sue would appreciate. Because, for 41 years of her life, that is exactly how she started her day.
Sue was the lifestyles editor at The Sentinel-Echo, and, as such, was responsible for documenting all of life’s passages in the newspaper: births, birthdays, engagements, weddings, anniversaries and deaths. Every morning, the minute you walked into the newsroom, you could hear Sue’s voice, which sparked with wit, curled with her Breathitt County heritage, and stopped nonsense immediately in its tracks. It was a good way to start the day.
Even at 7:30 in the morning, Sue was always beautifully put together. Her trim nails were always painted in a joyful color. Her jewelry was carefully selected. Her hair was neat and sprayed. And her outfit was fashionable and coordinated, sometimes in honor of UK if there was a big game, sometimes in honor of a holiday, but usually just in honor of her smart, conservative style.
Just looking at her, she was the kind of woman who younger women sought to impress. Like, you didn’t want to be too wrinkled around Sue. You regretted just putting your hair in a hasty ponytail before work. Even though she would never say a critical word, you wanted Sue’s approval.
And if you were very lucky, she gave it in her subtle, hard-earned way. Sometimes she’d give you a wink or flash you a smile. Occasionally, like once-a-year occasionally, she might call you “honey,” pronounced “hoooooone-ee,” which felt so warm and comforting it made you want to bask in it like a cat.
Sue was the longest-serving staff member in the newspaper’s history. For most, it’s difficult to imagine committing oneself to one job for more than four decades. But Sue’s commitment was an intrinsic part of her character.
You saw that in her meticulous work, but also in the way she treated her family. Spend a day around Sue and you learned what it looks like when someone loves fiercely.
Usually by the time her day had reached noon, Sue had checked in with her husband Dennis, her daughter Denise, and her sister Brenda. She’d have all the updates on her grandchildren Haley and Weston and her nephew Matthew, whether that meant knowing how they’d slept the night before or what sports games and practices they had after school. No detail was too insignificant if it pertained to her family.
Sue would generally return from lunch with a Styrofoam cup filled with Sprite and ice that she’d sip on for the rest of the afternoon, looking like a school girl. Her corner of the newsroom, which she’d decorated to look more like a living room than an office, always had a lot of action because Sue always had a lot of visitors. Beside her desk is a chair that, throughout her career, has likely given seat to every politician and bigwig in the county.
Sue knew everything about everything and everyone — and yet she wasn’t a gossip. That is exactly what made her such a powerful newspaper woman. She had that kind of genial personality where people just felt comfortable telling her things. They’d come to visit her even if they didn’t need anything. And she was always happy to receive them, no matter how busy she was, so they could catch up.
Around 3:30, Sue would start packing up for the day, so she could head off and pick up Haley and Weston from school. At least, that’s how it was when I worked with her seven years ago. As soon as she’d have her purse strap over her shoulder, her purpose had shifted from the career of her life to the loves of her life. It was time to turn the page, and this stylish, competent woman walked out the newsroom door with purpose and vigor.
It isn’t fair when someone so vibrant and wonderful is taken away too soon. You sure hope whoever is in charge knows what He’s doing. But if anyone would be at peace with the passage of life, it would be Sue Minton. She worked hard. She loved even harder. And, in the end, that’s a life worthy of the front page.
P.S. Abigail Jane King was born at 9:55 p.m. Oct. 3, weighing 6 lbs., 12 oz. She was 20 inches long.