Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sarah Sue

The email came as a shock, as these type of emails heavy with lament often do.

This one told me that Sarah Sue Ingram, a former sportswriter for The Dispatch and a former editor of The Thomasville Times, had died of cancer early Monday morning. She was only 64.

Consequently, I couldn't believe my own eyes as they passed over her obituary.

 You see, when Sarah Sue left The Dispatch in the fall of 1976 to take a similar position with The High Point Enterprise, I was a wet-behind-the-ears rookie sportswriter that The Dispatch hired to replace her.

Sarah Sue Ingram
I say "to replace her" in the most generous of terms. I had no way of knowing back then that Sarah Sue had become something of a local legend in the three previous years that she worked at the paper. But, after reading some of her work, I sensed even then that I had some tough sneakers to fill.

She was a talented award-winning writer who loved to turn a clever phrase. She was quite knowledgeable about the games people play because she was a pretty good athlete herself. And she was beloved by many of her readers and colleagues, no doubt in part because of the inner light that sparkled behind her constantly smiling eyes.

Although we worked for competing newspapers, we became pretty good friends. In my first year at the The Dispatch, we found ourselves covering many of the same events. She had a degree in journalism (from the University of Georgia), while I barely knew what journalism was. So, whenever she could, she showed me the local ropes: a nuance here, some background there. It was much appreciated.

Back in the 1970s, it was a rare thing to have a female sportswriter on the scene. But as far as I know, she never suffered any indignity or discrimination. She always got the story. Athletes of both genders clearly trusted her and her instincts. That's all a journalist can ask.

Although I believe she was her own person, I think a part of her liked to model herself after pioneer female sportswriter Mary Garber, who worked for The Winston-Salem Journal. I know the two women were good friends who no doubt shared a common bond. Once, while covering an event together, Sarah Sue eagerly took me by the hand and introduced me to Ms. Garber. I couldn't help but feel as though I was somehow standing humbled in the middle of journalistic excellence — and transcendence.

Time came and went. Sarah Sue migrated to other jobs, including a stint in the N.C. State sports information office, where she had the opportunity to author the book "Pack Attack!: The 1983 Championship Season." But slowly, over time, we drifted apart as friends sometimes do. The last I had heard, she was on the North Carolina coast, doing what she loved best — writing for a newspaper.

Then came Monday's shocking email and a void suddenly bubbled up inside me. I didn't even know she had been ill, much less that she was in a High Point hospice. So while my sense of loss is agonizing, my admiration for her remains authentic. And always will.

Fare thee well, my friend. Fare thee well.

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