A tribute to Nancy GreenBy FROM STAFF REPORTS,
She came to the business when the creation of a newspaper was an arduous task that involved hot metal, long hours and dozens of employees. She brought to the job a sense of grace, patience,and fortitude—quietly but doggedly reporting on the people and events of Attala County and central Mississippi.
Nancy Green's remarkable 65-year career at The Star-Herald in Kosciusko began when she was just a 20-year-old recent graduate of French Camp Academy and Clarke College. She began as a typesetter for the newspaper, working for its owners, the McMillan family. She spent much of her career as lifestyles—or society—editor, working for legendary Star-Herald publisher and editor W.C. “Dub” Shoemaker and chronicling the lives of Attala Countians through hundreds of feature stories and thousands of birth announcements, wedding write-ups and death notices.
Green collapsed and died suddenly May 1 while visiting the farm of Jimmy Atwood in Kosciusko. She was among friends and fellow members of her Sunday School class at First Baptist Church of Kosciusko. She was 83.
“One of her Sunday school classmates called to tell us Miss Nancy has passed away during the trip. We were shocked. It simply never occurred to us that she wouldn’t always be here working with us,” said Karen Fioretti, the newspaper’s current publisher and editor.
At the time of her death, Green—known endearingly as "Miss Nancy" to her friends and co-workers—was still working about 15 hours a week for the newspaper according to Fioretti. Though she retired from full-time employment several years ago, she kept reporting features for the paper and on special projects and as needed.
Although Green had reduced her work hours in recent years, Fioretti said her contributions to the paper both in content and behind the scenes remained central to the newspaper service to the community.
“When I first joined the staff, Miss Nancy not only helped me by offering history, context and contacts for stories, she became a key sounding board. Whenever I was working through how to pursue or present a sensitive or controversial story, I consulted with Nancy,” Fioretti said. “With her ‘community-first’ philosophy, her judgment was impeccable.”
Friends and co-workers said there was no indication Green was ill at the time of her death.
"I saw her just the other week and she seemed her usual self and in great health," said Neal Turnage, publisher of the paper from 1989-2000. "I still brought flowers to her desk even after I left the newspaper. She was just the kind of person you wanted to do that for."
A fixture in the community for over six decades, local officials note her loss is an enormous one.
"Miss Nancy was a true gem to this community, and her quiet spirit and intelligence will be greatly missed," said Kosciusko Mayor Jimmy Cockroft. "Her knowledge of what was happening in Kosciusko and Attala County was always right on target, even if she acted like she didn’t know.
"She was a true southern lady that I greatly admired."
As news of Green's death spread, tributes from former co-workers began to pour into the newspaper office and onto social media.
"She elevated the stature of every room she entered," said Mississippi Press Association Executive Director Layne Bruce, editor of the newspaper from 1996-1998 and its publisher from 2000-2003. "I was 23 years old when I joined the newspaper staff, and I cannot overstate how much Nancy taught me about the community, this business, and the proper way to treat the newspapers' readers."
Green was the longest serving newspaper employee in the state who was still active, Bruce said. Over the years she won dozens of awards from MPA for excellence in reporting, photography, page design, and editing.
Her encyclopedic knowledge of the people and events of Attala County was an invaluable asset to the newspaper and her co-workers.
"She knew all those 'correspondents' as we called them, reporting on family news from Possumneck, McCool, Ethel, Carmack, Zama, and so on," said Jack Weatherly, editor of the paper from 1990-1996. "She knew the people. She knew the history. And so she concentrated on such news.
"A stalwart, she was willing to do what she had to do in that quiet, polite Attala County way," Weatherly added. "After all, you were liable to run into that person you were writing about at the grocery store or the bank."
Several co-workers noted the maternal influence Green exuded over the paper's staff.
"Miss Nancy and the Green family adopted me when I lived there in Kosciusko as a first-time managing editor," said Jenny Humphryes Gaines, who joined the paper's staff in 1998 and now works as director of communications and engagement at Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates in Washington, D.C. "I couldn't have worked with a more caring woman than Miss Nancy.
"She taught me far more about the newspaper business than anyone before or since. I will never forget the special times we shared and Sunday dinners with the Greens."
"I’m also extremely thankful for the time that I was able to spend with her at the little newspaper covering the Beehive of the Hills," said James Phillips, former editor and publisher of the paper and now publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle in Jasper, Ala. "She was the surrogate grandmother that our family needed during our three-year adventure in Mississippi."
Green often demurred about her own skills as an ambassador for the newspaper or as a journalist of diverse talents.
"She leaves an impeccable record as a newspaperwoman. (That term is) more true to real life than a journalist and certainly above and beyond being a member of the 'media,'" said Waid Prather, editor and publisher of The Carthaginian who was a reporter for The Star-Herald in the late 1970s.
Outside of work, Green was active in church and social affairs. She and her Sunday School classmates often traveled and partook in local civic activities. She served on the church Historical Committee and contributed to the published volume "The History of F.B.C. Kosciusko."
“Nancy was one of my dearest friends. We shared so many good times. For many years, four of us ladies have gone to Orange Beach every September on vacation,” said friend and Sunday School classmate Helen Kyle. “We were always excited, and, of course, Nancy made that wonderful peanut brittle.”
Kyle and other friends were with Green at the time of her death.
“We had no idea that last Wednesday as we boarded the bus to go on our trip that Nancy would not come home with us. It is hard to believe she is gone. I loved her dearly and will miss her so much.”
Bruce, who eulogized his former co-worker during her funeral service, remarked on Green's quiet fortitude, especially in the face of adversity.
"Her strength and perseverance in the wake of an unimaginable tragedy—the loss of her husband Charles—and that ability to comport herself with her usual good nature and generous spirit even as it took years to achieve real closure over his death is an example to every man, woman, and child in this sanctuary," he said during the service.
Charles Green was murdered in March 2002 at their residence in Attala County. It took seven years for a suspect to be identified, apprehended, found guilty, and imprisoned for the crime.
"My office was right by the bathroom, so I saw the tears as Miss Nancy ducked in there at least once a week during my second stint at The Star-Herald from 2002-07," said Mark Thornton, a former sports editor, managing editor and publisher of the newspaper, and now chief reporter for the Laurel Leader-Call.
"The public didn’t see that, though. She would wash her face and get back to work, and when the next visitor walked in the office, she would offer that warm, welcoming smile."
Thornton says that good nature made her a unique example of perseverance.
"My first inclination is to refer to Miss Nancy as the quintessential 'steel magnolia.' That’s what we call any Southern lady who has shown strength and resolve," he said. "But she was more impressive than that. She was a 'golden rose' because she can only be compared to a metal that’s precious and pliable, and to a flower that’s a perennial and retains its beauty year after year, no matter what it’s been exposed to."
Above all, friends and colleagues remarked on Green's quiet dignity and gentle spirit.
"Nancy Green was a lady through and through," Prather writes in a column to appear in this week's edition of The Carthaginian. "(She wasn't) some frail flower of femininity, but a classy lady of strength and timber, of modesty and pride, soft spoken but precise in her comments, lovely but not saccharine.
"I miss her already."