She is so much a fixture at the newspaper we may be taking her for granted. Anyone who has worked for the Press Gazette in the past 64 years knows Rosie. She tells us she came to work here when she was 16. We suspect she will never retire.
To watch her buzzing around and taking care of all of us, you would never guess she is 83 years old. Her duties are varied and important. She started at the newspaper in 1953, though she will tell you it was earlier because she moved away for a little while and came back. She started out as an inserter when she was just 16 years old. Inserters were those who stuffed ads into the newspaper before it went out to customers. She used to address newspapers by hand to be mailed out. Now, she is our archivist; our walking history reference; and our friend.
To understand Rosie, one must first understand the dynamics of a small town newspaper, specifically the Press Gazette. The people who work here are truly family. Who knows, it may be Rosie's long-lasting presence here that created that atmosphere. Carol Barnes is our second-longest employee with 46 years at the newspaper. Together, they are the mother and great-aunt we all have grown to respect and love.
Rosie was born in Atlantic City New Jersey to Ethel Alkazin and Mike Farhart on May 10, 1930. She eventually moved to Crestview later on where a family member took a job at the Okaloosa News Journal as a linotype operator. This was Rosie's introduction to the job she would never leave.
She started with the Milton paper when she was only 16 years old. Newspaper offices were located downtown, across from the Courthouse. She can recall who owned the paper when and who they married and where they are now.
From those days to present, Rosie lived mostly in Milton. She grew up here and oft times when we are working on an historical article, we'll call upon her to clear up a fact we can't find anywhere else. She remembers - and will talk about - many people who have come and gone.
A lot of friends from the "old days" are still in Milton and it's no surprise to hear someone greet Rosie with joy at the front desk.
Every day of the workweek - and even on the weekend, we come to work and she is here, keeping the newspapers organized as we create them. She is in charge of the bound copies of the papers - we have them on file going back as far as 1970 and some further. She knows what is here and if someone moves it, she knows it's been moved.
She does the housekeeping for us and makes us coffee. Truth is, anyone can do those chores, but there is something about Rosie and the way she cares for the people who work here that makes those tasks a labor of love.
Rosie is outspoken and confident. She loves to talk and you never know what she will say. She has a strong sense of justice and sometimes the stories we run in the paper just make her mad - especially if it involves someone hurting someone else.
She forgets nothing, even though we do. She will stop by our desks to chat and we never know where the conversation will take us. She is open and loving and even the smallest gesture of kindness from any of us will live on for weeks to follow.
There are stray cats outside the office and she has taken it upon herself to adopt them. She buys food for them and feeds them every day. A couple of months ago, she became convinced there were kittens in our storage shed so she made the publisher here unlock the shed and search it. We found no kittens but it was fun watching Jim Fletcher getting dirty in his white shirt and tie, moving dusty boxes and equipment from the newspaper around, listening for tiny "meows".
This week, a wasp stung Rosie on the ear when she was near the dumpster. Next thing we knew, Jim and our reporter, Jason Jandura, were outside armed with long poles and cans of insect spray. The only thing missing was their shiny armor. They took out the culprit and calmed Rosie's nerves about being accosted again by invisible flying critters.
It is difficult to put into words what Rosie means to us. Like any family, we get annoyed with each other and yes, even sometimes with her. But she is by far the most physically active among us, on her feet all day rushing about the building taking care of her duties. Like a mom watching over her children, Rosie knows about all of our personal lives. She stays current and wants updates about how our family members are doing.
Rosie has a fish tank on her desk at work, a gift from Jim Fletcher. At times, she's got him fussing over it as much as she does. She keeps a close eye on the occupants. There is a tiny baby fish on my desk that I have been nurturing until it is big enough to join the others in her tank. She visits it daily to make sure it's doing all right, asking me every day if I have enough food for it.
At home, she is a collector. She has an apartment and if you visit, she will take you around and show you the things she loves, old and new. She has photos of her family and belongings from her past. She also has a fabulous doll collection and she adores her treasures. Her home is warm and comfortable.
She brings that comfortable atmosphere to work and shares it with all of us.
Rosie is a joy and an inspiration.
She gets more exercise at 83 than I do, 30 years her junior. I hope I am one-tenth as active as she is when I reach her age.
And even one-tenth as loved.