By Polly Keary, Editor
When I first came to the Monitor as a reporter in 2004, there was a staff of eight. It was a busy, noisy office on Main Street, and full of vivid personalities.
Kathy Jirak was the sociable office manager who knew everyone who came in the door. Ken Robinson was the wisecracking, seasoned newshound in the editor’s office; Rhonda Dicksion, a quiet but deep presence who exuded total competence and dispensed profound insights and robust humor as she put together stunning page layouts. Renne Duke had been there longer than anybody and had an encyclopedic knowledge of the valley, including a startling number of phone numbers, names, spellings and lineages committed to memory.
It was a colorful office, but no one was more colorful than Deb Robinson, Ken’s wife, who sold ads.
Right away she reminded of me of that favorite aunt, the one who always smelled great and had gum in her purse and told you jokes that were just a little too grown up for you, the one who bought you your first bottle of nail polish and let you have a sip of her drink.
We were none of us notable for our delicacy of phrase, but Deb set the bar for freeing her mind when the situation seemed to call for it, and it immediately made me feel at home. One didn’t have to worry about watching one’s language in Deb’s company.
Deb stood out for sheer glamour, too. Newspapering people aren’t known for sartorial skill, and we were, for the most part, consistent with our tribe, but Deb made up for all of us.
She’d arrive at work in a dress with sequins along the neckline, clicking along on black stilettos, red hair halfway down her back, looking like she’d wandered in off the set of Dynasty.
“Redtop” was a blast at office parties, quick with a joke, worldly and a little wicked, and I later learned she was a blast at the mall, too.
For a time she took a sabbatical to Hawaii, where she got into vacation real estate in Maui. I happened to visit my brother in Maui while she was there. We ran around in her convertible and I ended up cheerfully hammering my credit cards at the Cache store in Wailea while Deb exhorted me to buy this great pair of jeans and those awesome shoes.
As the old staff dwindled away, as we outsourced more and more of our tasks to specialists in other cities for graphic design, ad layout and so on, Deb kept the lights on in the place.
She sold the ads, some of her clients going back 20 years and more, and that’s how we kept the doors open day after day.
Last week, after 23 years on the Monroe Monitor, Deb Robinson decided to move on to the next phase of her life.
The back office is very quiet now. It’s only me and Kathie left, and now that Deb’s gone, I’ve been on the Monitor longer than anyone else, as sad and impossible as that seems.
We are looking for another salesperson, and I imagine we will be three again soon, but I don’t envy anyone trying to take Deb Robinson’s place.
Those three-inch size 6 stilettos might have been small, but they will be very hard to fill.