Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 6, 2014

Family diversity shines amid flickering flames of candlelight service


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Family has been on the mind of late. The many we have, and in their various forms.

Growing up, my family was tight knit. With a working dad, stay-at-home mom and five kids, some called us the Brady Bunch. It was a fairly accurate description.

We fought, we loved, we battled. World War III could erupt due to a snowball fight or who got the last piece of French toast for breakfast.

We were a feisty bunch. But in the midst of our passion and anger, Mom or Dad would sit us down and deliver a familiar speech: Family always comes first.

They would tell the battling siblings to make up, that blood was thicker than who got what for breakfast. As mindful children, we would comply. Hugs would ensue. Meanwhile, whispered words in each others’ ears would promise retribution when the opportunity arose.

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Standing in the lawn of the Princeton city offices last Thursday evening, I encountered a different type of family — the community family.

We were there to offers prayers for Princeton Times Editor Tammie Toler, who suffered a stroke the previous weekend. In attendance were members of Tammie’s many families — biological, work and community.

Throughout her career, Tammie touched many lives and many people. And as the moon rose above Princeton, candle flames flickered and heads bowed in prayer. We asked God for a miracle.

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I remember well when Tammie started her career at the Daily Telegraph. She was young and eager to be a professional journalist.

Tammie was hired as our news editor — the head of our copy desk team. These are the folks that edit the day’s stories, photos, cutlines and more, and then package them into an attractive and eye-catching layout.

The job entails late nights, holiday shifts and no bylines. It’s kind of a thankless job, but Tammie excelled at it.

Her attention to detail made her an immediate pro. And she was a multitasker. When cops called into the newsroom late in the evening, long after reporters had left for the night, Tammie never hesitated to take the information, write it up and insert the story into the next day’s edition.

Tammie could do it all, and that made her an immediate candidate when the Princeton Times general manager/editor position became available.

When Tammie said yes when offered the job, there was an immediate sigh of relief. We knew there would be a huge void on our copy desk, but we also knew the Times would be in good hands.

As expected, Tammie was extremely successful as a manager at the Times. The publication grew and blossomed under her watchful eye and kind touch.

Her community reporting was an art form; her court reporting legendary.

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While attempting to finish editing an editorial page last week, I heard bickering in the newsroom.

“Romper Room,” I thought, while massaging my temples and preparing to go stem the fray. Then, listening to the voices, I was suddenly transported back to the great French Toast Battles of long ago.

The bickering was indicative of siblings around the breakfast table. No real anger, just ... squabbling. Something families tend to do.

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Hours later I was in Princeton, holding a melting candle with my head bowed in prayer.

Gathered together on the lawn of the municipal offices, we sang inspirational songs, listened to words of hope and prayed.

Looking at the crowd, I saw hundreds of Tammie’s family members — from work, civic organizations, government, community and home. On this evening we all came together to ask God for a special miracle for a special lady.

Bringing my head up after a solemn “Amen,” I saw the lights of Princeton etched in the evening dusk as flames flickered in the foreground. It was a magical scene, and one I could imagine Tammie writing about with prose Shakespeare would envy.

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There is great beauty in the diversity of our many family members. They are the people who we see at work each day and run into at the grocery store during our evening errands.

They are the people who lift us up in hope when days are desperate, tease us when times are tense and steal our French toast simply to spur an early-morning debate over his or her breakfast domain.

Last week in Princeton, a true and deep meaning of family glowed in the many faces filled with love while lifting up a special lady in prayer.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.