Growing up, I craved a more significant existence than seemed available in rural Kentucky. Climbing the ladder as a journalist, working far from home, I longed to cover “important” stories. In the mail arrived an article from The Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal, courtesy of my mother, who captured the premise in her letter: “People say the only time you’re guaranteed to get your name in the paper is when you’re born, when you marry, and when you die.” The Courier-Journal had chosen three individuals—nobody “special”—and had recounted, in depth, the powerful meaning of a birth, wedding, and death. “Birth, Marriage, Death” became the foundation for the remainder of my career. What gives news relevance is its effect on our perceptions of the world into which we bring children, commit to shared dreams, then pass our torch as we leave.

Birth, Marriage, Death

By Billy Reed
The Courier-Journal, Aug. 9, 1974


Vanceburg, Ky.—An 18-year-old named Linda Moore rested peacefully in her bed in Room 206 of the Hayswood Hospital. On her pillow, next to her head, a transistor radio played soft music. A pair of tiny knitted blue bootees was on her bedside table.

A couple of days earlier, Linda had given birth to a 6-pound, 11-ounce boy. He was named Alan Moore Jr., after his father, a young worker in a factory near Vanceburg. The birth was very painful, said Linda, but she forgot it all when she heard her first child’s squall.

Maysville, Ky.—At her family’s three-story, white-brick antebellum mansion on Third Street, the one with the black wrought-iron railings all around, Jannie Hargett sat in the middle of the carpeted dining room floor, opening wedding gifts and adding names to her list for “Thank
You” notes.

The dining room was filled with gifts, so that it looked almost like the miscellaneous section of a small department store. Over here was a table with nothing but silver trays and pitchers. Over there was a table with china and glassware. Other tables had electric appliances and other articles of her “loot,” as Jannie laughingly called it.

At 11:15 p.m. on Wednesday, July 28, Mrs. Margaret Hall passed away quietly in her 94th year. She was just 11 days shy of her 95th birthday. Until she got sick earlier this year, Mrs. Hall never doubted she would live to be 100.

“She had no patience with old people who just gave up,” said her daughter, Mrs. Lloyd Anderson, 73, one recent afternoon. “She never thought of herself as old. Why, when she was in her 90s I remember her talking about other people and calling them, ‘this old person,’ or ‘that old person.’”

Reprinted with permission The Courier-Journal ©.

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