Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Remembering Carol Stark

The work that Carol Stark did following the May 22, 2011 Joplin Tornado brought both her and the Joplin Globe to national attention and even had many experts anticipating a Pulitzer Prize nomination for the Globe.

It was easy to see why the media experts thought journalism's most prestigious prize was coming to our hometown newspaper.

Despite many reporters losing their homes and a nightmarish situation that no one should ever have to face, under Stark's steady stewardship, the Globe did not miss a deadline and each day kept a damaged community on top of the news it needed to know.

While Stark was quick to give credit to her staff, she was the one who made the tough decisions.

Carol Stark died today at Barnes Jewish Hospital at age 61, one month before she was scheduled to be inducted into the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame.

As Globe editors and people in the journalism world remembered her work today, those challenging days following the Joplin Tornado were among the first things noted and rightfully so.

But Carol Stark's greatest contribution to journalism and to humanity stems from the way she dealt with the disease that took her life.

Thirteen years ago, when Stark learned she had cancer, she made a decision that not only was she going to battle the greatest serial killer this world has ever known, but she was going to share that battle with the public.

It was a courageous choice.

It was not altogether certain that she was going to survive, but she determined from he outset that she would share her battle with Globe readers.

It was not a ploy for sympathy. She wanted to bring breast cancer out of the darkness and let others who were battling the disease or who had loved ones who had it know they were not alone.

Even after she won that first battle with cancer, she continued her efforts to educate the public and to advocate for those with cancer.

The courage and fierce determination Stark showed with that much-remembered series of columns and her many years on the Globe staff made her a natural choice to succeed Edgar Simpson as editor in 2007, the first female editor in the Globe's history.

When the second, eventually fatal confrontation with the disease, Stark followed the same path she had blazed 13 years earlier.

Stark made the announcement her loyal readers had been dreading in a December 30, 2018, column:

I've noticed lately that I'm swearing with more frequency. 
On the other hand, I'm praying a lot more. 
Let's hope the latter will cancel out my profane outbursts. 
But I'm pretty sure the higher powers gave me a pass on Dec. 17 when my doctor looked me square in the eyes and said: "Carol, your scans are not good."

With that characteristic humor, Stark broke the news to the Globe readership.

After spelling out the doctors' grim prognosis, Stark made it clear she would battle to the end and closed the column with another thought to leave the readers smiling through their tears.

Please keep me in your prayers — and out of your swear words. No use in all of us seeking atonement.
Thebattle ended today.

The impact of that battle and the grace and courage Carol Stark showed as she stared cancer in the eye and never blinked will have a lasting effect on those who have faced or will face the same battle.

Thanks to Carol Stark we know that while it is a lonely battle, we are never alone.


Anonymous said...

Well done, Randy.

Anonymous said...

I find it simply astounding that you have anything good to say about Mrs. Stark after all of the negative bashing you have done of her over the years. Why don't you be true to yourself and continue bashing her even in death as you did when she was alive? Why stop now? She was always such a class act and twice the human being you are. You should be ashamed.

Randy said...

I have no regrets about any of the things I have written in the past about Carol Stark or the Joplin Globe.

At the same time, everything that I wrote in this post is exactly the way I feel and this is not the first time I have praised Carol's contributions, especially when it comes to the way she shared her battle with breast cancer. I wrote about that in my book Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud.

She may well have been the twice the human being I am and I may not be a class act, but I have always known when it is the time to stress the positive difference a person had made in this community.

I see no reason to be ashamed of writing something that was heartfelt.

Anonymous said...

Your words fall hollow
to the people who truly knew Carol.
She never did have breast cancer, so your op-ed is a fairy tale.
Stay in your lane Randy.

Randy said...

That has been corrected. Thank you for pointing that out.