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Reflections: On Worth

For at least 12 years on Wednesday afternoons, I sat across from him at the big table in the Press office on the third floor of the General Store. He would be doing paperwork, coming in and out on errands, and working on his computer. Marty Green and I were proofreading the weekly issue of the newspaper. Periodically I, the Luddite, would ask him to look something up on his computer. He was always happy to do that and happier still to add to or comment on what he had found. He had an insatiable curiosity and took great delight in discovering and sharing new information.

Sometimes he would let out a giggle and mostly I, but sometimes Marty too, couldn’t refrain from asking him what was funny. He would then regale us with excerpts from the latest satirical piece by his favorite columnist, Andy Borowitz. Sometimes he would tell a story of his own, a memory triggered by something he was reading online. He loved sharing a joke or an anecdote. He often talked about and quoted his father, whom he obviously admired and found wise. Proofreading was interesting but could become tedious—looking for missing commas, catching typos, double-checking the spelling of names. Worth brought much-needed moments of distraction and laughter, which endeared him to me and made the work so much more enjoyable.

A perk of being in the office on Wednesday afternoons was Dinner at Deadline, an ingenious arrangement Worth made with several local restaurant advertisers. Worth took our food orders, and in case we weren’t sure what to have, he would refer to his records and remind us what we had ordered from that restaurant in the past. His theory was that if we had repeated something, we were probably safe ordering it yet another time. Worth went to pick up the food, a task I at first felt shouldn’t be the job of the boss. But he loved every chance he had to interact with people. And I think he saw his real job as taking care of his Press people. I was happy to be one of those. He set up the food and insisted on going down to the first floor for drinks if what we wanted wasn’t already in the fridge.

Worth was an embodiment of institutional knowledge about the town, and I loved learning about all he remembered that I did not. He had an incredible memory and could recall not just the outcome of some controversy but all the arguments surrounding it. He had served on different committees and took an interest in every decision the town faced. When he had a strong opinion he would make that known with carefully reasoned argument. If he felt strongly enough, he would initiate a citizen petition. He cared deeply about what he saw as good for the town.

I am definitely dating myself, but I loved the fact that Worth was such a gentleman. If I went somewhere with him and Sue, when dropping me off, Worth would open the car door for me and walk me up to my house. At other times he would insist on getting me something I could have gotten for myself—and I loved that he did that. He was truly kind and thoughtful—not just a Southern gentleman.

Worth single-handedly brought me kicking and screaming into the modern world of technology. Whenever I couldn’t make my computer do something I needed, which was all too often, Worth would come to my house and fix it. He never gave up on a problem; he always saw it as an interesting challenge, one he was determined to meet. He set me up with all sorts of alien things—WiFi extender, new modem, security protection, Dropbox. When I casually mentioned that I was afraid I might lose my writings, he told me about a friend who had lost everything. She had called him in a panic, but he couldn’t retrieve her work. The thought of something happening that Worth couldn’t fix convinced me. He helped me purchase a backup so my documents would be safe. I was always hesitant to bother him, but he insisted he was happy to help. He patiently explained everything to me, and I never had the heart to tell him I didn’t really understand much of what he was saying. I think he knew, but he never made me feel as totally inept with computers as I am; he was too kind for that.

Last summer my laptop lost sound. Worth came and sat on the screened porch and talked to the Apple people for more than an hour. Finally they pronounced my machine too old for them to support any longer. Worth researched the cost of sending my laptop to South Carolina to be rehabbed and was all set to do that for me. In the end, he helped me order an iPad, and he insisted on coming back to set it up.

On the last couple of visits, Worth admitted he was in some pain. He didn’t talk much more about it, except to tell me a number of times, “Sue is being wonderful.” I’m sure she was. And so was Worth.

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