Sara Campbell: Mrs. Enterprise

Published 11:39 am Thursday, April 11, 2019

A newspaper and some conversation.

The newspaper part was optional.

Sara Campbell, Mrs. Enterprise, died last week. She had worked at the newspaper for 67 years before her final retirement several years back. You read that right: for 67 years. She was 94, and kept her feisty spirit and independent personality right to the very end.

Sara Campbell sat at the front desk – the first person people would see when they entered the office – for more years than I have been alive. There’s no doubt that she personally sold more newspapers than all of the rest of us combined.

Sure, some just stopped by for a visit and bought a newspaper out of a feeling of obligation. Others came in to buy a newspaper and stayed to listen, and talk, to Sara. They left with more information than they found between the pages of the newspaper. And most likely, before they left, she knew about their family, their dreams, their day. They left feeling special, because she told them they were special. She may have even called them her favorite. She said that a lot. At one time, just about everyone in Mocksville and Davie County was Sara’s favorite.

She tried to leave the people she came in contact with a positive thought about themselves.

I was fortunate to have been one of her “favorites.” How do I know? She told me so. Over and over again. It never got old hearing her praise your work, your home life, or just you. And she had that special knack for predicting the future. I’m going to live a long, happy life. She told me so.

People didn’t have to want a newspaper to come into the office for a visit. They may have just been walking up the street and looked in the window. There was Sara, dressed to the nines, hair in place, a smile on her face and a story ready to tell. They came in to visit, and left as her favorite.

There are too many fun stories about Sara than will fit in this space.

There was this mentally-unstable man who would come to the office from time to time trying to get us to publish his manifesto. He was well-known to law enforcement, especially in Clemmons and Forsyth County, because of threats he would make against people. He was also known for mowing his grass wearing nothing but a leather thong, and occasionally went out into public dressed in similar fashion. Folks were scared of this guy, but not Sara. When he marched into the newspaper office and told her that he could take off all of his clothes and blow the place up, Sara didn’t flinch. “Well, who in the world would want to see you naked?” was her reply. The man left and never came back.

Until late in life, Sara didn’t drive a car. Her wonderful husband, the late Prentice Campbell, had taken care of all of those chores, dutifully taking Sara to hair appointments (Those were not to be missed.), to work, wherever she needed to go. But when she did learn to drive, she was only comfortable parking in one place on a side street. It didn’t matter if it was a marked parking space or not, it was the only place she was comfortable parking. So that is where she parked.

Sara Campbell was an institution in and of herself. Former editor Dwight Sparks said she was the only person around known by one name, “Sara,” comparing her local notoriety to Cher, Madonna and Elvis.

Her son, Bill Campbell, and his wife, Pat, took great care of Sara during her last years. It wasn’t easy, but they knew the love she had shown them over the years, the love that she had shown for their children and their grandchildren. She needed their help whether she wanted to admit it or not, and they were there. We could all take a lesson from them on caring for our aging loved ones.

She also loved her newspaper family, or should it be families, because she worked here so long that generations had passed. She was the face of the newspaper, the soul of the newspaper. She tried to help each of us out a little bit every birthday. She tried to help with our personal lives. The smart ones listened.

We’re still in the newspaper business. Stop by the office and we’ll sell you a paper. We’ll even talk to you, but don’t expect to hear the real news as Sara told it.

She was one of a kind.

– Mike Barnhardt