Preserving precious personal memories in every edition

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Column by Ben Sheroan, editor

By Ben Sheroan

Tears can be shed over any edition of the newspaper.

That’s because each paper includes death notices. These brief summaries of lives lived hint at the sadness behind them with a detailed listing of loved ones.  In the jargon of obituaries, the people left with grief are called survivors.

With the beginning of a new calendar year, it’s common to review the 12 months that we all just survived. Often, grief plays a part in that recap.

In 2010, the deaths of colleagues, extended family, friends, acquaintances and fellow church members resulted in trips to local funeral homes.

As you read this, you can’t tell but there’s been a long, reflective pause since the previous sentence was completed.

Overcome by a rush of memories as mind called up the warm eyes of my great-aunt, Nell Harper, followed by memories of encouraging words from Ronnie Proffitt plus history lessons learned from Vincent Kieta's stories and then a chuckle prompted by laughs shared more than two decades ago with Steven J. Paul, who invested a large portion of his short life producing news stories for local readers.

Just last Monday, the funeral home parking lots in my hometown overflowed due to showings of affection and support for the families to two men who impacted my life.

My family knew Louis Basham by his nickname, Junior. Not far from my home, he ran a big farm and owned a big brick house that sat on a big hill. Not surprisingly, he cast a big shadow. Jobs that he created as a farmer, businessman and investor directly impacted my family. I knew him best as a father of friends who allowed us to play basketball in the loft of his new barn until the winter light bill arrived. He also established the Red Hill Barn Dance that provided more than a decade of wholesome fun for hundreds, including my grandfather. After my grandmother’s death, Reedie found his way out of his own grief, in part, as a regular fan enjoying those weekend gatherings.

Harold Bennett made a life as an independent businessman in Radcliff. Like many people who attend North Hardin High School, he arrived in the community thanks to a parent’s Army assignment. Because diplomas are handed out alphabetically, he graduated from North Hardin High School about 27 minutes before me. While we had known each other for four decades, I really only came to “know” and fully appreciate Harold in the past year. I found him to be a man of deep interest and abundant concern – perhaps it should be called love – for Radcliff. He often would call to discuss policies, politics, police or countless other points of interest. He consistently focused on betterment of the community.

On any given day, any one of you could share stories like that about people in the obituary list. We know that these people are precious to you. That’s why we continually emphasize that publication of obituaries is not about processing information. In this act, we are the custodians of memories, which demand respect and exceptional care.

With each notice, the newspaper’s reputation for accuracy is on the line. The importance is something we understand on a human level, not just as journalists.

Periodically, our handling processes and reviewed and discussed. Beginning next week that will have a noticeable impact online at www.thenewsenterprise.com. Through the many versions of the newspaper’s web presence, obits have been process and published in long lists just like the print edition. Going forward, you will find each person’s notice posted individually online.

That means finding a loved one will be as simple as scanning the summary of names and clicking. It also means that we will be more responsive by posting notices immediately after the data has been processed and proof read rather than waiting until all the notices have been collected and arranged for the print edition. As a result, the site will make visitation and funeral information available sooner and more conveniently.

We hope that 2011 will be a year of happiness and prosperity for you all. Should sadness strike, please remember that behind the newspaper page are people who understand your pain and care about each word that goes on to Page A4.

Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com or (270) 505-1764.