A void opened up at Herald Journal this week with the departure of Associate Editor Starrla Cray, and for those of us who had the privilege of working with her, that void is much larger than the vacant office down the hall.
For more than a decade, Starrla has graced our presence with her professionalism and helpfulness.
I realize there’s a risk that this column may sound like a eulogy, but I’m happy to report Starrla is very much alive. She has simply returned to college to further her education and work on some projects of her own. I find it fitting somehow that she is moving on not just to chase a bigger paycheck but to improve herself, just as she has worked to improve things at Herald Journal and our sister papers over the years.
Starrla adds a touch of class to everything she does. That’s not a word we hear a lot these days, but it is absolutely the right word in this case. Starrla has high ethical, personal, and professional standards, and it’s not just window dressing. The journalist people met when she covered public events or interviewed countless subjects for our publications is the same person I got to know working side-by-side with her in the trenches.
Starrla treated everyone she wrote about with kindness, respect, and dignity, and that is also how she treats people behind the scenes. That’s part of what I mean when I say she adds a touch of class.
I can write this column now that she has moved on, but I know if she were still here, she might find it embarrassing. Starrla is not the sort of person to call attention to herself. While she’s an expert at seeing the good in others and celebrating their victories, she is modest about her own numerous accomplishments.
This doesn’t mean she isn’t competitive. She consistently finds ways to challenge herself and other members of our team to improve the way we do things. Her gentle but firm guidance has been an important part of the work we’ve done here, and I will miss her positive influence.
I laugh when I hear people mention Starrla’s quiet demeanor because I know from experience she’s tough as nails when fighting for something she believes in.
The fact she doesn’t do a lot of shouting actually makes her more effective.
She has no problem calmly but firmly advocating a different course if she thinks I’m going in the wrong direction (which happens a lot), and that’s part of what makes her such a valuable colleague.
One of my favorite parts of working with Starrla for all these years has been that she always found a way to make me smile.
We’ve been through a lot together, facing constant deadlines, staff turnover, and factors beyond our control, and yet there haven’t been many days I wasn’t excited about going to the office.
Starrla’s razor wit kept me laughing even during the darkest hours, and for that I am grateful.
My philosophy has always been we should take our work seriously but not ourselves, and Starrla fits that model perfectly.
There always seems to be a funny side to the predicaments in which we find ourselves, and Starrla has an unerring knack for putting her finger on it.
We, along with the rest of our staff, have stood on the beach, watched the thunderstorm approach and laughed into the wind as the chaos descended all around us.
Despite all that, the papers always made it to press, the projects got done, and for the past decade I’ve never gone home without having at least one good laugh to brighten my day.
Operating in an environment like this is a rare gift, and I’ll miss having Starrla around.
Although laughter has been a big part of our days (at least that’s how it seems to me), Starrla’s sense of humor is not malicious. Not only is it unlikely you’ll ever hear Starrla say an unkind word about anyone, but she seems unwilling to listen to others make disparaging remarks. That’s another part of that class thing I mentioned earlier.
Of course, this has been maddening for a dedicated curmudgeon like me. Many’s the time I’ve just got started on a good rant about someone who has fallen short of expectations, and with that gentle smile she has calmly insisted that there must be a good reason for the person’s behavior.
There are times people just screw up and fail because of things they have done or not done, but I don’t think I’ve ever been able to convince Starrla of that.
I’m not sure what the future will hold, but I know things are going to be different around here.
I’ll miss collaborating with my friend each week, but I wish her well. I can’t help thinking that I and the company are better for having been exposed to this special touch of class.