Sometimes being the community reporter is hard.
The day in day out never seems to get boring. Sixteen years later there always seems to be something “upcoming” or planned which fills me with excitement.
The hard part, however, always seems to come by way of unexpected obituaries, illness, controversy or in the case of this column ... retirements.
I rarely (well, never) have done this before and I have had to say good-bye to some pretty amazingly awesome people. In this case however, it’s a little different.
Last Friday, I met with Janice Bender for an upcoming story. I’ve known Janice for over a decade now, yet prior to last Friday I could not have told you what her line of work was. Quite simply I knew she worked at the District Office of Oakdale Joint Unified. We’ve been work neighbors the whole time.
I’ve written about her and her family in these pages, a few times before. Yet, I still never knew her official title.
Last Friday, on her last day as an employee of OJUSD I learned she was a Purchasing Agent at the DO.
Janice is the type of lady that always brings a smile to the faces of people who cross her path. She also happens to be a faithful reader of this column space and has never ceased to share feedback on any given topic I pen.
She’s also one of the first to ask “have I missed it?” on the rare occasion that my brain goes dry and I miss a few weeks sharing thoughts in this Mommy Musings column space. In short, people like Janice are a big reason I love this job. We should all be like Janice.
Not to be confused, this has little to do with my ego and the fact that she’s always quick to stop me on the street and chat me up a bit about something I’ve written. It’s more about the lessons I’ve learned through my acquaintance with her. Oh sure, it absolutely helps that I know she will read this. It makes it all the easier to write.
My additional hope is that her family and friends see it as well, since I know they too must feel this way about the classy lady with the bright smile. People like Janice are the ones who help us maintain hope in humanity.
She’s the type of person who’s never been shy about sharing something she’d rather not have seen in our pages (which is rare), as well as offer praise and acknowledgement for something we have gotten right.
So last Friday as our interview concluded and the reality of no longer seeing her around South Third became reality, I realized how much I hate good-byes.
This town is so small and special that a camaraderie amongst us sometimes seems inevitable. So many of us travel in the same circle be it attending a fundraiser, Farmers Market or school performance we sort of become friends by default. It’s almost as if the City of Oakdale is a work campus (a la the tech industry) versus a small town hosting a variety of businesses.
And so, another member of the campus will now step out on the downtown streets a bit less. Her absence will be felt, by our office as well as a number of other downtown neighbors.
So, Janice, this one was for you. Thank you for always shining bright amongst our neighborhood. Thank you for your kindness, support and yes, your readership. People like you are why this job is so fulfilling.
As you set out on your next adventure I offer you only this – keep being you. For each of us who have had the good fortune of crossing your path are all the better for it. God bless and God speed, good luck.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.