A treasure we couldn’t keep | PostIndependent.com

A treasure we couldn’t keep

Dale Shrull
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Dale's Notebook

I never saw the marshmallow until it smacked me right in the forehead. The precise toss came from Kay Vasilakis. Her marshmallow marksmanship was astounding.

So was her heart and her smile, her laugh and her infectious personality.

I’m not sure when it started but Kay came up with the marshmallow throwing ritual at the Post Independent to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, departures or just to send a tiny toss of joy in the form of a marshmallow. She tried to keep the marshmallows fresh, since the stale ones kinda hurt.

There was nothing like getting pelted with a marshmallow thrown by Kay.

Thursday was a shocking and tremendously sad day. Kay passed away.

The newsroom has never really been the same since Kay was laid off due to bottom-line mandated staff cuts. In the impersonal world of business, the harsh company focus to the bottom line cost Kay the job she loved. Actually, that’s an understatement. She loved her job, her co-workers, the community – Kay loved and relished her job as Community Editor at the Post Independent.

And I can’t think of another person who could have done it any better.

Every morning, Kay strolled into the newsroom dragging a stream of sunshine with her.

When I had to tell Kay that she was being laid off, it was one of the most difficult days of my life. I knew how much she loved her job, and I knew that we would not be able to provide the same service to our readers after she departed.

What upset me the most was that I saw Kay grow into her position. She worked to get better, she wanted to get better, she wanted to become a full-fledged journalist. And she did.

Her feature writing and column writing kept getting better. What made Kay special was simple. She cared about people. It could be seen in her writing. Simple words that couldn’t be faked. She cared about people, and the people who saw her everyday could see it and feel it; people who spoke with her on the phone could hear it and feel it; people who got her e-mails could read it and feel it.

Kay’s attitude was phenomenal. Sure she had down days. Those insensitive phone calls that she fielded chiseled away at the sunshine she brought to the newsroom, but by the end of the day, Kay was Kay.

Smiling, laughing and spreading joy. The sunshine she tossed around the newsroom stayed long after she went home for the day.

I felt that Kay found her niche as Community Editor. She loved this community and the people. That’s why it hurt so much when she was laid off.

All she wanted to do was do a great job. Take care of the reader. Kay and I worked together for several years, and we both embraced a common goal: Get community news into the paper. Feel-good news that a community like ours loves to see and read.

Kay did it exceptionally well because she cared so deeply.

Every year as the calendar flipped to January, Kay focused on the annual Garfield County Humanitarian Awards. This was her baby. She poured enough energy into the awards to power the Griswold’s house during the holidays.

Her only goal was the do the best possible job. Countless hours went into this event. She stressed, she worried and she turned it into a stellar night of celebration every year.

Kay made the Humanitarian Awards amazing. Kay was the emcee of the event. Her corny jokes, her coaxing of everyone to do the chicken dance, her devotion to this special night were all trademark Kay.

Every year, as each humanitarian was recognized, I couldn’t help but think Kay needs to be recognized. I never felt that I ever thanked her enough for her hard work, devotion and love of this event.

Not only did she serve on the award’s selection committee and emcee the event, but she wrote the biographies for the nominees, scheduled photos, and took photos of the nominees.

She did it all from start to finish. If they needed help, Kay would have gladly grabbed a broom at the end of the night.

She was the face, the voice and the enthusiasm behind the Humanitarian Awards. Now she’s gone. We are stunned and saddened beyond belief.

As I think about those marshmallows that were tossed around the newsroom, I remember Kay for how she lived.

A woman full of joy, energy and enthusiasm. A woman who loved community and people. A smile and smiling eyes that couldn’t be ignored.

As her day concluded, Kay had a special sign-off as she headed home for the day.

“Slicker than snot … I’m outta here.”

And now she is gone and she will be missed more than words can describe. Slicker than snot Kay, thanks for the sunshine.

– Dale Shrull was the editor of the Post Independent during Kay Vasilakis’ tenure as community editor. He is now writing and reporting for the Rifle Citizen Telegram.

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