Saturday, August 3, 2013

An old boss died...

Last night, while messing around on the Internet, I ran across an obituary for a woman I knew when I was in graduate school.  Her name was Joann and she was my boss at a country club near Columbia, South Carolina where I waited tables and tended bar.  Joann was originally from Alabama and was a genuinely sweet woman.  She had many years of experience working in clubs, having gotten her start at Fort Jackson in the Officer's and NCO's clubs.  That job at the club has the distinction of being the only one I ever got from a newspaper ad.

Anyway, Joann and I got along great from the start.  She appreciated my sense of humor and managed to lead without being dictatorial.  She could see that I knew how to wait tables and appreciated my help.  And she was a hard worker and a good friend on the job, too.  I enjoyed working at the club, even though the club members could be snooty and demanding, and there was one guy who used to sexually harass all the women, including me, Joann, and especially the teenagers who worked there.  The job paid fairly well, was very easy work, and they even gave me food-- that was a nice thing, given how poor I was.

I worked at the club from August 1999 until May 2000.  I quit for my second year of grad school because I had a full load of classes, a fifteen hour internship, and a fifteen hour graduate assistantship and there was no time for extra part-time work.  But then my assistantship got cut to ten hours a week and I only had three classes.  I had a lot of extra time and very little money.  I called the manager at the club and asked him if he'd like me to come back.  He was happy to welcome me back and even gave me a raise.

Joann was still working at the club and seemed delighted to see me again when I came back to work.  I was happy to see most of the folks who were there when I worked there the first time.  It was still easy work that paid reasonably well for what I was doing.  I was also glad for the extra money, which I really needed.  In March 2002, I quit again because they were about to change the uniforms and I would have had to buy a bunch of stuff for less than two month's work.  Plus, I had to present a big paper for my MPH.

However, I did come back to the club one more time with Bill, who was then my fiance.  We had dinner at the club and the chef, who was a good friend of mine (and baked our wedding cake), hooked us up with a really nice dinner.  Joann met Bill and said she thought he was "precious" and I should "hook him"!  That was the last time I saw Joann.

She apparently died June 21st of last year, the day after my 40th birthday.  I don't know what she died of, though the obituary mentions that expressions of sympathy should be in the form of donations to the American Cancer Society.  I know that when we worked together, she had pneumonia a couple of times and once came to work a bit loopy from her meds.  We laughed about it, but I have to wonder if that was a precursor to whatever it was that took her life at age 72.

Joann had a loving husband who treated her like gold.  She had children who loved her, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  She used to tell me stories about growing up in Alabama in a Christian household and having to wear her hair long.  When I knew her, she kept it cut short and chic.  She had beautiful blue eyes and a warm, kind smile.  She had a gentle southern accent that belied a wicked sense of humor.  I remember she used to say that she was so tired a good piece of ass would kill her.  And she truly was a pleasure to know, not just as a boss, but as a friend.

I didn't know she died when it happened, but I know now.  I will remember her for the things she taught me, like fancy napkin folds, how to make a display table look like it's covered in clouds, and how to make butter balls.  But most of all, I remember what a loving spirit she had and how she made my time in a challenging graduate school program easier.  Joann was a shining example of the many good people I knew when I lived in South Carolina.

May she rest in peace.  


  1. I'm sorry for the loss of Joann. Good people like that ought to get to stay here longer. May she rest in peace!

  2. Thanks lawfrog. She was a lovely woman. I will remember her with fondness.

  3. i'm sorry for the loss of your friend and co-worker and for your lack of knowledge of details, like a story with an incomplete ending. I'm sure many people remember her fondly, and regardless of anyone's beliefs concerning the hereafter (I'm very inconclusive as to what I think) she lives on in the hearts and minds of many.

    1. Thanks Alexis. I was blessed to know her.

      Like you, I'm not sure what happens after we die. My husband had an NDE when he was a teen, so he fears death less than I do (I am ridiculously healthy). But I like to think that my loved ones-- friends, family, and pets, are somewhere lovely-- at peace and no longer in pain.

      I guess what makes this weird is that even though I met her 14 years ago, it doesn't seem like 1999 was that long ago. The older you get, the faster time flies. It's hard to believe that in 1999, 14 years ago meant 1985, when I was 12 or 13 years old an clueless. The years were slower then. Now that it's 2013, 14 years ago feels like the recent past. And it doesn't seem like it was that long ago that Joann and I were co workers.

      She was a really good person and I have been lucky to have quite a few really good folks in my life.


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