A marvelous lady is gone, but not forgotten

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 17, 2003

Only the &uot;goode&uot; die young.

While most wouldn’t consider a person to qualify as young upon reaching their 75th birthday, age is just a state of mind. To me, Ramona Goode was just as young and spry as the day I first met her over 30 years ago.

In the fall of 1972, I was in my sophomore year at Chowan College where one of my professors, Herman Gatewood, said that The Herald over in Ahoskie needed some part-time help in its offset camera room. As a struggling college student burdened with the two evils of life – a car payment and a girlfriend – I jumped at the chance to earn a few bucks.

As a member of the newspaper production staff, my association with the folks over in the newsroom was very limited back in those days. I guess I could have gone over and introduced myself, but normally by the time I arrived for work, their job was finished for the day.

That changed when I went full-time at The Herald upon graduation from Chowan. Even though my attention was diverted by this vivacious little blonde who worked over in typesetting (the woman that later became my wife), I began to expand my normal work territory from outside the camera room. One department that sparked my interest was the newsroom.

Deep down, I was a writer at heart. In high school, I was the founder, lead journalist and publisher of the &uot;Bus 14 News&uot; – a satirical gossip rag about the romances aboard a school bus. By my senior year in high school, I was editor of the &uot;Ram Page&uot; – the student newspaper at what was then Northampton County High School.

But my real path into the world of journalism was paved by Ramona Goode. What I didn’t realize until I penned last week’s story about her death was that the separate paths we took to our roles as News Editor of this publication were nearly identical.

Ramona launched her newspaper career in an auspicious manner, landing a job here as a receptionist back in 1968. Seven months later, she moved from answering telephones to writing stories. The rest, as they say, is history as Ramona moved up the career ladder, eventually being named as News Editor in 1979.

That was the same year I married my News-Herald sweetheart, Deborah, and moved to Tarboro. After a short stay in &uot;T-Town&uot; and then a brief visit in Garner, Deborah and I moved back home in 1983. I returned to my job in the old darkroom, but with my sights set on a sports writing gig.

It was Ramona who became my biggest ally in my quest for the Sports Editor’s job. She groomed me for the position, offering her wisdom and her uncanny knack to bring out the best in an aspiring journalist.

I marveled at the way Ramona could tell a story, how she could get into the heart of an article and place the reader right in the palm of her hand. She taught me that the best opening paragraph was one word and the best headline was one that screamed at a reader, in four words or less.

It was Ramona Goode who taught me that above all, the truth was the real issue of any story. One of my favorite Ramona quotes is, &uot;You can dress a fox as a chicken and send him to the henhouse, but he’s still a fox.&uot; In other words, she was telling me that people may attempt to disguise the facts, but it was my job to discover the truth.

In my 11 years as Sports Editor, I wasn’t presented with many challenges to dig for facts – they were right in front of my nose in the way of stat sheets. But I never forgot Ramona’s advice, words of wisdom that remained to the very day when I was named as News Editor in the late fall of 2000. The first person to call and congratulate me was Ramona. Of course she reminded me to make sure of my facts and write the truth.

Ramona Goode drew her last breath exactly one week ago today. When I wrote her story, I refused to end it with a -30- because her words will live forever through those who were fortunate enough to cross paths with this great, great lady.