Grand dame in every sense of the word

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 29, 2004

The first time I met Maurice Bozeman, she was sitting at a big desk right out in front in the offices of The Evergreen Courant.

She had a raspy voice, a warm smile and seemed to be the perfect office secretary.

I quickly learned that she was the publisher of the Courant, succeeding her husband on his passing.

I was there for the second job I would have out of college and ironically, I was leaving The Greenville Advocate to take it.

In the next few days, I quickly acclimated to the Evergreen area, and it was through Miss Maurice that I learned about many of the people.

We would be at our desks and someone would walk by the big plate glass windows.

I would ask about them or she would simply start telling me about them.

With my not living in Evergreen, I didn't have a home to go to for a quick lunch, so every day she and I would pick a place for lunch and I'd go pick it up.

Sometimes we drove to the local grocer's deli and grab a bite. I remember she enjoyed the Piggly Wiggly's peach cobbler.

Not long after I got there, it was decided that she would retire from her publisher's post and her son Robert would succeed her.

She basically began staying at her home, but would still come down to the office occasionally to check on things.

I left the following May to seek my fame and fortune in Georgia.

While I never got the opportunity to talk to her, I did keep up with her through the other folks at the office.

Several weeks ago, Robert told me that his mother was terminal and that they weren't sure of how much time she had.

I took a few hours and drove down to Evergreen and went to see her in the hospital.

She had company so I only stayed a few, but she clearly remembered me and we talked about the newspaper business.

For those outside the business, it's hard to understand that is what we do.

We have ink in our blood.

She asked if I had been reading the Courant and I told her that I read it every week faithfully.

She smiled and said "Robert is doing a good job with it, I think."

I told her I thought he was doing a great job.

She smiled again as if my opinion was made of gold, and then she said simply, "Bob (her husband) would be proud of him."

She closed her eyes for a moment and opened them again and she said quite strongly, "I'm very proud of him."

I left her that day knowing that I would not see her alive again.

So on Thursday, when I returned from lunch, I got the message that Robert had called to report his mother's passing.

The cancer that had turned their lives upside down had claimed her, but she was not in pain and was at peace.

In this line of work, you cross paths with many types of people.

Some you forget quickly, while others will stay with you for your lifetime.

Maurice Bozeman taught me that it is okay to live in a small town, that is a good thing to speak and smile at those you meet and she taught me that sometimes you just to let go and watch something blossom.

That is what she did with the Courant.

Though it hurt her to let it go in 1998 when she retired, but she got to see her son become the man and publisher she and her husband knew he could be. With that she was able to leave the world with pride in her family and her family's life's work.

May she rest in eternal peace.

Jay Thomas is the managing editor of the Greenville Advocate.

He can be reached by phone at 334-383-9302, ext. 136 or via email at jay.thomas@greenvilleadvocate.com.