Jason Deal

Joan Carol Purrington Teglas-Duplessis was my friend and I loved her.

Her sudden passing Feb. 9 has hit us all hard at The Times. It doesn’t seem real. Her absence has left a big, gaping hole here at the office among my co-workers and I. The silence has sometimes been deafening and the tears come from strange things, like mini Coca Colas®, grits and Milky Ways®.

Bear with me. I will explain.

I first met her in the summer of 2008. The first impression might not have been what you call friendly.

The first time I ever laid eyes on her in that old long ago, I was covering a concert at Patterson’s Spirit of Liberty Festival.

I had to be up at the stage to get the photos and yes, I was in front of the performers. I finished the shots and stepped off to the side.

About that time, I noticed this short, blonde-haired lady marching up the hill on a mission.

Her mission was me. She came up to me, didn’t offer any kind of greeting at all and proceeded to tell me “Some people would like to watch the concert if you’d get out of the way.” That was our very first meeting.

Just a few months later, our now retired editor and publisher, Robert M. Williams Jr., introduced her as our new office manager.

“Her!?” I am sure I exclaimed.

Thankfully, that first impression was wrong.

She explained it in her own words not long after that.

Mrs. Joan brought me a Milky Way and told me that she liked them because although they were hard on the outside, the inside, the center was soft and sweet. I think that was her way of apologizing for our first meeting. Later on, we could both laugh about that experience.

That described Mrs. Joan perfectly. She could be hard on the outside — direct, no-nonsense and all business, but deep down she was a softie, she was gentle and loving and she was a sweetheart. Sometimes her directness caused her problems with her relationships, but if you really got to know her, you would see she was really a kind and loving person.

I came to know that first hand. She certainly made sure I was taken care of and well fed. She was always bringing me mini-Cokes®. They were her favorite because they were just the right size. Just recently, when I was sick, she cooked a bowl of grits for me one morning. And,  for as long as I can remember she has always been leaving Milky Ways® on my keyboard.

We talked about all of those things during her homegoing service last week.

Man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart. Mrs. Joan had a heart for her family, her friends, her community, her church and her critters. She especially loved her dog, Annie. Mrs. Joan suffered a fall similar to what happened to Actor/Entertainer Bob Saget. She suffered a fall  and bumped her head trying to see about Annie. She went to sleep Tuesday, Feb. 8, and she woke up in heaven. Annie passed away Saturday.

It has been terribly hard coming to the office and not seeing her up front at her desk. But, we have kept out the Milky Ways. We all need reminding that even though we may be hard on the outside, we need to be soft — gentle — and sweet in our hearts. As I signed out that last Tuesday, she said “I’ll see you later, Sweet Pea.” I am confident I will see her later in that beautiful land called Heaven.

Thank you Mrs. Joan. I hope you knew how much I loved you.

• Jason Deal is the news editor for The Blackshear Times. Reach him at jdeal@blacksheartimes.news.