Saturday, August 31, 2002

Rebecca Poe died today after a long battle with cancer. She was nobody famous, though if you have lived more than a few years in Warren County, you knew her, or at least had read her work in the local papers. Becky devoted her life to recording the comings and goings of our community. In later years she took up the mantle of local historian, and became the keeper of our memories. If you wanted to know where the creek that flowed past your farm got its name, Becky could tell you. She knew the old census records, newspaper files, and the few formal works of history our community produced. More importantly, she knew stories. She was related to most of the old-timers, had talked to all of them and remembered everything. She wrote down much, but the loss of what she held in her own heart and head is immeasurable.

Becky spent most of her working life as a journalist, reporting, writing, editing; doing at one time or another every job that can be done on a small town paper. She retired when her health got bad. After an unexpected remission from the first bout with cancer, she treated her reprieve as a gift and decided it was time to do whatever her heart truly desired. She discovered that what gave her the greatest pleasure was what she had done for all those years, running a small town newspaper. She wanted to do it on her own terms though, and started the Warren Times, a small paper produced weekly from her kitchen table. My wife Susan, who was a cousin to Becky on her father's side, helped out by selling and designing ads for the Times. I grew used to seeing oversize sheets spread across the table in Susan's study, ready for advertising copy and last minute stories, before being returned to Becky and the printers. The paper thrived for several years, breaking even and even making a little money on occasion, until Becky's health began to fail again. The paper has been dormant for a while now, and with Becky gone, will not likely see print again.

We will miss her. She had a quick mind and a great heart, a love of family and a love of community. In any place, large or small, there are a few souls who do more than their share to see that what is good survives, and that what is wrong gets fixed. Most of these folks are unknown outside their own town or neighborhood, sometimes not well known within it. Becky Poe was one such person. Her time among us left us richer, her passing will leave us that much poorer.
Tomorrow (September 1) is the beginning of the Church year on the Orthodox calendar. My own Church, the Orthodox Church in America, follows a revised Julian calendar which tracks the civil calendar for most dates, but calculates the timing of Pascha (Easter) according to the traditional reckoning. (For those Orthodox Churches that use the traditional Julian calendar, September 1 is still thirteen days away. Orthodoxy being conservative in all things, many Churches have declined to use the revised, or "New" Calendar and, in some circles, the change is viewed as the first step of a descent into secularism and relativism.)

The custom of starting the Church year at the beginning of September dates back to the times when Orthodoxy was the official faith of the Eastern Roman Empire. Even in these more secular times, it is still the custom of Orthodox hierarchs to send a word of greeting and encouragement to their flocks at the beginning of the new Church year. The message of Metropolitan Herman, new chief hierarch of the OCA can be found here. Archbishop Demetrios, head of the Greek Archdiocese, sends his greetings here.