Despite the personal tragedies, setbacks and hard times life threw at her, she simply could not be kept from caring. Now, I’m hoping and asking that those whose lives were touched by Mona help me keep her legacy of indomitable compassion alive …….
By David Cornwell
Anytime you get together with friends you’ve not seen in decades, chances are every third sentence will begin with “Remember the time.” And so it was last summer visiting old friends in northern Utah.
I last saw Pete and Jennifer when he worked as a photographer for the Logan Herald-Journal and she for the paper’s features section. That they fallen in love and married was surprise No. 1. That they had left journalism and founded Rockhill Creamery in Richmond, UT, was surprise No. 2. A small and delightfully unique farm from which they produce craft cheeses, Rockhill Creamery also hosts the town’s farmer’s market and occasionally live music or other events in a barn turned listening room.
“Remember the time the publisher put out the memo about riding bikes in the newsroom,” Pete asked, and with that question a long forgotten memory of antics from my former life resurfaced. While I can’t remember the specifics that prompted that memo, what struck me is that Pete remembered. And that got me to thinking about how they and other friends had influenced the course of my life and how I may have influenced theirs. I’m not necessarily talking about swift and direct influences, like a gust of wind picking up a leaf and shooting it on its way, but more about the imperceptible influences that are like the lightest breeze subtly directing a feather’s path.
If you ask my friends from 30 years back to describe me, terms used might include wild, weird, high energy, irreverent, funny, dumb, immature, out-of-control. I can guarantee they wouldn’t include caring, compassionate, advocate, concerned for social justice. That a description today might include those terms is Mona’s doing, the result of her gentle nudges and occasional gusts in pushing me in the right direction for our 26 years together.
I know I’m a better person for those years. I know our community and state are better because of Mona’s life. And I’m fairly certain some reading these words are better because Mona listened in their times of need, gave them words of hope or encouragement, was a friend who was always there no matter what. And certainly she received the same from many in return.
Under the headline Cupcake Kisses Off C-T, a fake front page put together when she left the Asheville Citizen in 1988 (its merger with the Times not yet official) notes Mona’s role as the paper’s “county government reporter and chief listener and consoler.” Cupcake, I might mention, was my pet name for Mona, a name that just fit the sweetness and softness of who she was.
“There was a time when death visited her family and through tears and deep thought, she searched in vain to find an answer,” then Asheville Citizen columnist Henry Robinson wrote, referring to the death of Mona’s brother, Clark. “She was able to overcome the tragedy and to be there to comfort us when the storms of life visited our lives. Her words of wisdom were like the calm that follows the storm. And although we are saddened that our “Cupcake” is leaving for destinations unknown, our lives have been enriched by the love she shared.”
It’s really not uncanny that the same words written for the end of her newspaper career were still so apropos 25 years later at the end of her life. Had she lived another 50 years, they still would have been. While I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should, the depth of her humanity was limitless and despite the personal tragedies, setbacks and hard times life threw at her, she simply could not be kept from caring.
Now, I’m hoping and asking that those whose lives were touched by Mona help me keep her legacy of indomitable compassion alive. Planning to grow the Mona’s Legacy Fund at the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina is finally beginning in earnest, with the ultimate goal for the fund to make grants in the areas of mental health, homelessness and education.
If you have marketing, public relations, organizational, WordPress or Facebook expertise, please message me; I can use your help. If you have ideas, professional networks that might play a role, time to make phone calls or contribute in ways yet imagined, I need your help. If your lives were enriched by the love she shared, I need your help.
I myself have no choice but to keep pushing to keep Mona’s legacy alive. Of all the influences in my life, she was by far the greatest, making me realize there is a greater need beyond ourselves and that one person truly can make a difference.