But the paper's loss was the city of Franklin's gain as she then went on to help project after project come to fruition.
Sheila was injured very badly in February when she was struck by a car. She passed away yesterday.
I met Sheila in March of 2015 and we worked together for a little more than a year. I remember vividly the first story I worked on with her. It was about a month into my starting at the paper. It was a ballet dance class in Franklin. We didn't really have a clear focus for a story other than they were preparing for a spring dance recital.
I made my pictures and was very happy with them. I showed the photos to Sheila back at the office and she mentioned struggling with how to approach the story. She had written about 20 inches but didn't have the angle she wanted to tell a story.
She said looking at the photos helped but she needed to step away from it and wasn't sure she'd finish it before the end of her day. I needed to know if she would get it finished because I had put all my eggs into one basket and if it wasn't going to be ready the next day I would have to go find something else for the front page. She printed out what she had written and left the office for a smoke, story in hand.
After a little while I walked out to ask her how it was going. She was sitting on the picnic table reading over her story with a long ash on her cigarette. She was occasionally dragging from the cigarette as she grapped with the words. She then did something that surprised me. She asked me to read her storyand give her feedback. This was a PhD in English asking a photographer who struggles not to end sentences with prepositions for his thoughts.
I was honored.
I read the feature story over and as I got toward the end a quote and a phrase really just struck me. I told her I thought the story was fine, but the end was the part that grabbed me the most and thought it should be the lede.
Again, this PhD in English, looked at this photographer who says things like "words is hard" and her eyes lit up and said "that's it!" She went back in and in less than 20 minutes she was packing up for the day -page one story done and ready for the editor. She didn't make it her lede, but reorganized the story so it really flowed and gave context to why we were telling it.
Those are moments of team work we seldom get a chance to see or understand. Certainly we struggle to take time to appreciate them because we just move on to the next story.
It's what we do.
So the night before her last day at work we went out for a beer. She always said to me that she only drinks one, but we were in the basement bar of The Franklin and had a nice draft beer that she liked. We ended up having two, well, Sheila only had half of her second. She realized that she still had to get home and let her dog out. I was truly going to miss this new friend and colleague I grew to trust and admire as a journalist.
Over the next few years we would cross paths again and again after she took the job with the city of Franklin.
I didn't have any luck making a picture I was happy with, but enjoyed seeing my friend and coaxing her into another selfie with me.
Another time I ended up in her new office. I noted that her desk resembled her dest at the Derrick. She employed the ordered chaos theory of keeping her desk papers. We laughed when she pointed out a very distinct difference from her desk at the Franklin City building and her old desk at the paper. "That stack over there represents a $150,000 project, that one. $80,000," she said pointing to two foot high stacks over by the window.
She said the work was hard, but rewarding. I imagined, knowing how she approached her work at the paper, that she was very good at what she was doing.
I will miss my friend greatly. Those chance encounters were gold nuggets for me. Her brilliance and curiosity was always refreshing. She always had a story idea or two to pass on.
The last time I saw her was appropriately at the beer distributor. It was a week before the accident and I actually convinced her to buy not one, but two extra six-packs because she couldn't decide which one she wanted more. I even helped carry them to her car.
I will miss you Sheila.