I had something else on my writing agenda until two events — centered around the same person — occurred last week. No, Roy Moore or Doug Jones had nothing to do with any of it. I know you’re pleased to read that.
Last week, long time Telegraph CFO, Conna Hardy, retired. It was no surprise, we knew it was coming. She announced it matter-of-factly months ago, but the day (Friday) was finally approaching. Many, including me, thought she would change her mind. She didn’t. It hit home to me it was really happening when I walked into her office a couple of weeks ago and there wasn’t a single piece of paper on her desk. I’d never seen that before.
Conna started her career at the Telegraph in 1992, just a few months before I joined the staff. We were so young then (and nothing has changed). The first event was a retirement party given by the newspaper and people returned from all over just to say their goodbyes. People Conna had worked with through the years showed up. Some long-since retired and others had moved on to other jobs.
Many of them said Conna intimidated them. Why? I have no idea. They would learn, however, that she had a heart of pure gold. She knew her numbers and she made sure everyone in her department knew the numbers, too. It was evidently very efficient. The Telegraph received a no comment perfect audit from outside McClatchy auditors. That’s a pretty difficult feat. Outside auditors’ jobs are to find any little thing they can gig you on, and when they can’t find anything, they look harder.
But one thing was clear from the people in the room. Conna had been a colleague, mentor and friend for a long time to a lot of people. In the words of filmmaker John Waters in a conversation with Celeste Headlee, host of GPB’s “On Second Thought,” “Old friends are what get you through life. They’re the people that count.” The people that counted were everywhere I looked, particularly her mom.
The next event occurred the following day. Some of the same actors as the day before were in attendance, but the location was different as were the logistics. Retirement Party No. 2 was a surprise, and if I were a betting man, I would have bet against the prime culprits, Conna’s mother and Lisa Berrien, ability to pull off.
Their co-conspirators, of which we all were, kept our mouths shut, and when Conna walked into a room at a Warner Robins restaurant, the look on her face (and we have pictures) was priceless. She didn’t have a clue.
Her mother, who was the real brainchild of this affair, explained that she had to slip a gown over her dress when Conna dropped by her house so she wouldn’t know anything was up and had to stall Conna’s brother (her son) from picking her up for the restaurant until Conna left.
Another elaborate logistics scheme was underway at the restaurant. Lisa’s husband was the lookout while Lisa, supposedly, went to the ladies room, but was actually handling final arrangements. And it all worked.
During both parties people expressed moments they shared with Conna that cemented special bonds. Her best friend, Susan, described, coming out of her last treatment after a bout with breast cancer to see Conna standing there with a flower for her. Everyone at both parties had special moments that added to create this unforgettable memory.
Conna is going to be fine, she’s looking forward, not back. She said to me as we left Retirement Party No. 2, “If I never see another spreadsheet in my life, it will be alright with me.”
We should all be looking to the horizon to create little moments with special people — moments that turn into lasting memories. We create those moments everyday, but sometimes we’re just moving too fast to appreciate them and the people who made them special.
So as we get ready to “Ho, ho, ho,” create some special moments. Don’t get caught up in the Christmas hysteria, for those are moments we’d just as soon forget.