There will never be another Kaybird
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
There are times when I meet people and instantly know they’ll always be my friend. That I’ll always be able to trust them.
This happened to me when I met my best guy friend, Tommy (these days he goes by Tom), from my hometown. We were sixth-graders, and he was the new kid at Doe Creek Middle School. I was the first person to speak to him, which he has always remembered. I’d like to think I cracked a joke. Most likely I made a horrible attempt at flirting – which I’m known to flub – and he thought I was kidding.
So many embarrassing crushes, so little time.
More than 25 years later, our friendship is still going strong. Tommy knows he can call me any time and I’ll drop what I’m doing to help. I imagine the same goes with him. Unless he’s playing cards.
Then I’m likely out of luck.
That assurance, that anytime I need a friend I know who to call, is how I’ve been able to make it this far in Colorado without family nearby – more specifically 1,000 miles away. The McAnanys all live back in Indiana, so I’ve come to really rely on friends I’ve made in the Roaring Fork Valley.
And they can be pretty amazing.
Flashback to the beginning of my journalism career in Glenwood Springs. I started at the paper about five years or so ago. I answered a classified for the community editor at the Post Independent. This job wasn’t so much a reporter or managerial editor position as it was a chance for me to get my foot in the proverbial newsroom door. I was updating community listings and writing obituaries. And anyone who knows the editorial side of the newspaper business knows this task all too well. Mostly because obits can be daunting. For some, an obit is the only time a person’s life story ever runs in the paper.
And, sadly, it can be the last.
I’m a proponent of the idea that everyone has a story. They do, they really do. And if you think your life is boring and you don’t have a story, sit down with me for a few minutes and see what surfaces. This can sometimes be challenging on both ends. So can writing obituaries for the paper. There is always so much emotion. Trust means so much when taking a call from a devastated family member.
Enter the first time I ever met Kay Vasilakis. I instantly fell for her, like that unconditional love I share with my mother. Kay had this sweet demeanor about her that made me feel like I was in the presence of my own mother, whom I love dearly. Kay was kind and funny, like my mom. But unlike Dian, Kay did it up big with costumes at Halloween. One year, she spearheaded a big Halloween bash at the paper. She dressed as a gypsy palm reader … Madame something-or-other. That afternoon Kay read people’s palms and predicted our futures. Kay could see romance in my future. She said I would find the love of my life, settle down, get married and have some babies.
That would take a psychic to predict.
Kay always wanted to know when the big moment was going to happen for me. Probably a lot like my own mother these days. She couldn’t wait for the day when I would breeze into the newsroom with a sparkly diamond on my left second finger and announce a date. I’m still holding out, Kay.
Still holding out.
When Kay took over the community editor role, as I moved on to arts and entertainment, I trained her. Funny thing is, she didn’t even need training. She was a natural. She rocked that community editor position like I dance to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” on a cruise ship. She was a superstar.
And Kay was my kind of journalist.
She knew how to talk to anyone who called the newsroom. She could comfort the heartbroken souls submitting obits, or get down to business when someone was giving her the business. We all loved her in the newsroom.
My former colleague Ryan liked to call her Kaybird. That always made her smile.
Probably even blush a little.
Kay was a solid reporter and a great writer. And not just the kind of reporter that knows the facts, ma’am. Her writing had heart because she truly cared about nonprofits in the valley and the latest news from New Castle. She loved writing almost as much as she loved her family. She loved her job.
Most of all, she loved this community.
Kay passed away – a term we’re told to avoid as journalists because it softens the reality, but I can’t help but use it on this day – last Thursday. The news felt like a punch in the gut. And from the community’s reaction, I’m not alone in my sadness. Kay was very much loved by everyone who worked with her at the Post Independent, and by others all over town. I like to think she was our Mama Bear of the newsroom. And a guardian angel for all the humanitarians out there who deserve recognition and rarely get it.
As soon as I met Kay, I instantly knew she would be my friend. And I could always trust her.
May we all be so lucky as to be like Kay.
April E. Clark is going to miss seeing Kay’s pink Beetle with the tail around town. Slicker than snot, Kay. Slicker than snot. April can be reached at email@example.com.
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