Nearly every week when I sit down to write my column, I consider a topic and find an inspirational quote to accompany it.
While it’s sometimes the 11th hour before my muse visits to drop off that topic, I knew on Tuesday what I’d be writing about this week.
Billy Carr was the broken mold, the epitome of what any employer would want in an employee and a walking history lesson. To my generation of newspapermen, he was old school, but school was still in session right up until he left this world.
Next week, I will celebrate seven months at The Democrat, and that’s just too short an amount of time to have someone like Billy Carr taken away.
I thought it fitting to lend my normal space this week to those who don’t always get a voice in the newspaper but whose work here is equally important.
I asked my co-workers on Friday to finish the sentence, Billy Carr was... The following are quotes I received:
“Billy was the one place I knew I could go on any day to get a smile, a bit of encouragement and thoughtful sly anecdote to see me through. He was always there, and you didn’t take him for granted because you knew you needed to know that life and work were to be enjoyed, not endured. For Billy, life was work and work was life, and it was all meant to be lived in joy that you shared with others. I often found myself seeking him out to get a little drink of that joy. I can get another drink anytime I want with a memory; but I’ll still miss him.”
– Joseph H. Adams, publisher
“Billy Carr was enigmatic. I never knew whether we would discuss politics, the weather or some off-the-wall pop culture topic. When I was moved to the Lebanon office he was one of the first to reach out to me. He was the epitome of the phrase, "still waters run deep," and I am honored to have known him. He was a joking character who lit up the room. “
– Laurie Everett, Mt. Juliet News managing editor
“Billy Carr was such a fantastic man. He made not just coming to work more enjoyable, rather life more enjoyable just by being himself. I was honored to be "one of his girls.”
– Teresa Murchie, accounts receivable
“Billy Carr was an incredible person to know, not just to work with but to have as a friend. He was always laughing and joking and could make anyone around him feel better no matter what you were going through.”
– Melanie Ray, classified manager
“Billy Carr was, first and foremost, was a servant. Billy was a remarkable man who served his country, his community and his friends all while spreading his infectious smile and upbeat personality. He never took life too seriously so much so that even after 12 years it was hard to tell when he was being serious or pulling my leg. I will miss his regular morning stories about his girlfriends, favorite hang out spot and his faithful four-legged companion, Jesse.
“My fondest memories of Billy will always include thoughts of him arriving faithfully every morning at The Democrat wearing his favorite collared shirts and toting the briefcase I gave him that belonged to my late father. Billy’s old briefcase had seen better days, but to him it did the job. He carried it for years with rubber bands holding it together and never thought a thing about it. When my father passed I knew the perfect place for his old unused briefcase would be in the hands of Billy Carr. The only problem was one of the combinations was locked. But after a few tries one day, Billy and I figured it out and wrote it down so it wouldn’t be forgotten. He carried that briefcase faithfully from then on. On occasion we would talk about it and joke about how we came to figure out the combination, but mostly I think he just knew it made me happy to see it getting some use.
“I never did know what he carried in his briefcase, but I can only imagine that it was some pretty special stuff – special like him. His light hearted and simple ways touched me, and I am a better person for knowing him.”
– Shelagh Mason, business manager
“Billy Carr was a wonderful and kind gentleman with a great sense of humor. I will miss his secretive winks as he gently tormented fellow co-worker “Miss Polly.” He always took the opposing viewpoint during their morning debates no matter the subject. I’ll also miss talking UT and Titans football with Billy, sharing our great hope that maybe next year they would get it turned around. He was so much fun to be around and just a great, great man.”
– Roger Wells, advertising director
“When I began working here 15 years ago, I was a little overwhelmed with the daily deadlines put in my lap. My mood was solemn, and my focus was stern, but Billy had a way of making me feel at ease. He would walk over to me and wink and point to let me know he was up to something so I would pay attention. Then he would say something to one of the girls who had walked in the room that would make me crack up. Sometimes so much, tears would spring up. I had never heard an old man talk like he did. It was refreshing, and the laughter helped get me over those tense humps until I finally started getting used to things.
I saw Billy very few times over the past couple of years because of our schedules, but when we did run into each other he still made me laugh in that way he had of saying very few words that carried a lot of humor and truth. Sometimes I never knew whether to take him serious, but that didn't matter because most everything Billy said either made you laugh, shake your head, pause, but especially, appreciate. A true gift I'm not sure if he knew he'd had, but one I've had the pleasure of receiving.”
– Mark Rodgers, production manager
“Billy Carr was a very special man who I will never forget. You could come into work feeling bad or in the worst mood ever and as soon as you saw Billy all that just seemed to go away. He always had a smile on his face and there was never a day that he couldn’t make you laugh. I will definitely miss all of his wild stories he had to tell. I am just thankful that I got to be one of the lucky people who got to know him.”
– Kim Rollins, customer service representative
“Billy Carr was a super man. He could make you laugh until you hurt with stories about his cat, his take on politics and his women. He served his country even until he was in his 70s. The only job he ever had was at The Lebanon Democrat, where he worked for 65 years and literally until the day he died. Billy never had a frown on his face; he found humor and some reason to smile at all times. I know very few others who I can compare to Billy Carr.”
– Blair Churchman, advertising representative
“Billy Carr was an honorable, faithful and devoted man to his country, family and friends. Billy was also very faithful to The Democrat. I would always know when he was here because he would take his daily medicine at the water fountain, and you would hear this awful gurgle, burping sound coming from the fountain. I would just smile and laugh. His smile and laugh would brighten my day along with his stories, never knowing if they were true or just Billy being his amusing self. He was such a storyteller, and he would get close to you and kind of whisper certain stories that didn’t need to be said aloud. It was known that he would go to Jimmy Floyd every morning to take his shower as he was a frugal man when it comes to buying or paying for things. Billy would make so many people think his cat, Jesse, was a woman when he would tell stories like, ‘Tammy I had to kick Jesse out of the bed last night she was moving around to much’ or ‘guess who slept in my bed with me last night…Jesse.’ I can’t put into words how much that man meant to me as we have worked together for 12 years. There are a lot of memories I will have in my heart forever. I am such an honored person to have met a precious man as Billy Carr.”
– Tammy Williams, office manager
Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.