When I arrived at Rotary last Thursday, I knew something was different.
Something someone was missing from the Thomson Depot.
And as Kim Bragg started the explanation, my knees buckled.
The club's pianist, Patricia Lokey, had passed away that morning, she said.
Then came the moment of silence.
And then came Amazing Grace.
It's the same song that played at my grandfather's funeral five years ago. And it still tears me apart every time I hear it.
Especially last Thursday.
I'll never forget the first time I "re-met" Mrs. Patricia at Rotary. She knew me, called me by name, hugged me and said how great it was to see me again. I stood there dumbfounded. I honestly had no idea who she was.
Then it all clicked. She'd played at my wedding. (My wedding, after all, was - and still pretty much is - a blur. What can I say, I'm a guy But for some reason, Mrs. Patricia stood out amidst the haze.)
I'm pretty sure she never forgot a wedding - and that's how so many people remembered her. She played Bonnie McCorkle's ceremony, and two of Angela Blair's; both remembered Mrs. Patricia as members of the Chamber of Commerce gathered for a ribbon cutting last Thursday - just minutes after the weekly Rotary meeting let out.
Patricia Lokey touched many lives by tickling the ivories. She was a part of many memories, and she'll certainly be missed.
Especially when I take my seat each Thursday in the Depot.
Meanwhile, members of the Thomson-McDuffie County Chamber of Commerce gathered last week to celebrate 2008, look forward to 2009 and honor some of our area's finest citizens.
For one of my cohorts at The Mirror, the night was extra special. Angela Blair took the gavel as the 2009 chairwoman of the chamber's Board of Directors. I served on that same board with Angela for two years, and know she'll do a great job in the coming year.
But it was the last award that made me selfishly smile. Audrey Eller won the Darrell Johnson award for her dedicated service to the community. You've all seen Mrs. Eller: She's the lady who's always working in the flower beds around downtown Thomson.
And here's the thing: I'd begged Mrs. Eller for six years to let us do a story on her. And for six years, she'd refused. This time, she didn't have a choice.
After the banquet, she was still in tears and telling people that she certainly didn't deserve the honor. We all knew different. She's done more than enough to earn the award.
In fact, I'd like for our community to establish the Audrey Eller Award. We can award it each year to the person or business that does their part to beautify our community.
Then again, she probably won't let us do that. For someone who spends her days helping our community shine, she really doesn't like standing in the spotlight.