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A ‘mother hen’ is missing

If you read the obituary page in this week’s edition, you’ll note that this newspaper has lost one of its most loyal and highly-respected employees.

Ann Kirby, who retired in 2017 after serving as a full-time staffer for 47 years, died July 23 after suffering from the complications of a lung disease. She was 71.

Her career in newspaper work began in 1969 when she hired on at the Hartselle Enquirer as a typesetter. Subsequently, she helped the newspaper produce copy electronically and become an offset publication. She later assumed responsibility for the scheduling and publication of legal advertising in two weekly newspapers.

In addition to the production side of her work, she was the voice, ears and eyes of the Hartselle Enquirer for many years, working from the front office entrance. If you telephoned the paper, you talked to Ann. She was able to answer most questions or direct you to the proper source. She helped customers with the wording of classified ads, took personal news items and handled new and renewal subscriptions.

Her eyes read every single word of editorial and advertising copy before it went to the printer for publication. Her memory for the spelling of names was uncanny, and she was able to spot errors and prevent the embarrassment of copywriters repeatedly. All writers, no matter their seniority or rank, took her red marks denoting errors at face value.

Punctuality and work ethic epitomized Ann’s attitude about her job. In the more than 40 years she and I were co-workers, I only remember one time she was late for work. She phoned in that a neighbor called to report their cows were out, and she had to help get them back in the pasture. 

She was also a stickler about staying on the job until it was finished. We were frantically working to meet a publication deadline for a Progress edition when a March snowstorm paralyzed the town. She and I were the only two employees to make it in. We worked through the night to put the pages together and proof them.

The memories you left with us as our “mother hen” are heartfelt and lasting.