By Lisa Whaley

This past week, we said goodbye to longtime advertising director and jane-of-all-trades

Damaris Higgins – not for good, because she plans on continuing her relationship with us in one form or another for a while longer – but as a daily presence in the office and our lives.

Fortunately for all, she has agreed to work with us here at The Erwin Record during her transition, even as she begins her new adventure.

This new adventure seems a bit ordained. A few months ago, when Damaris stopped by Governor’s Bend Assisted Living Facility to get approval on an upcoming ad, she found director Johnnie Lyons busy with another matter. Johnnie asked Damaris to wait outside just a moment and she would be with her.

“You can play the piano,” she said jokingly, not realizing at the time that Damaris loved nothing better than to “play the piano.”

Soon residents had gathered around to enjoy Damaris’ music, singing along and generally basking in the impromptu performance. They urged Damaris to come back, and this ad-director-turned-pianist graciously agreed to spend some of her Sundays volunteering at the center.

I remember talking to Damaris after that first visit, her eyes shining and the joy of having done His work clear on her face.

When Damaris handed me her resignation letter a little more than two weeks ago, explaining that after much prayer she had decided to accept the position of activities director at Governor’s Bend, my first surprising reaction was simply joy at her happiness. We try to trust God for the future, but too often miss signs of him so clearly opening a door. It was reassuring to know it still happens.

As I told my boss later, while I might have been tempted to grab onto Damaris’ ankles and beg her not to leave, I didn’t think it was wise to challenge God’s plan.

Today, as we face our first week without Damaris in the office, I am reminded of everything she has done for The Erwin Record – and for me – throughout the years.

Like most of us in the weekly newspaper industry, the staff here at The Erwin Record are familiar with doing more with and for less. Our driving force is often a love for this community, as well as a sincere belief in the importance small town newspapers can play.

For Damaris, it has clearly been both and she has proven it. Whenever there was a need, she would always try to meet it. Whether it was a customer with a missed newspaper, a business hoping for a photo of an event or a customer looking for a more detailed design of an ad, she was often first in the car, with the camera or at the computer trying to make her clients’ dreams a reality.

When I came on board a year and a half ago – more than a little scared, I must admit – Damaris was one of the ones to offer her support. I never heard the words “That’s not my job,” ever come out of her mouth, and I am convinced that had she stayed another 10 years, that would not have changed.

For the past seven years, Damaris has put The Erwin Record first in so many things and has worn so many hats – from selling and designing ads to fixing wayward computers and copiers to stepping in to deliver the newspaper whenever we were short a dedicated delivery person. We are feeling a little lost without her.

But I am still so excited for her, even though I feel her absence greatly. I know she won’t be far away and that she and her dog, Cracker Jack, will soon be popping through the door to continue to help us out.

I also know that there is a group of men and women at the other end of town who are beginning to realize they have just received a precious gift – a hard working woman who gives her all and loves not just in words but in actions.

And this time, she gets to do it all to music.