Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The Senior Side: On the death of a friend

By BILL CLARKE, Commentary | Published November 5, 2018

“Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”

-Richard Bach, Illusions, 1977

There is a sad reality of life that all seniors experience when those close to us begin to die. It happens with regularity as we grow older, whether it is a parent, sibling, a spouse, a son or daughter, a grandchild or a dea r friend.

We accept the reality that those older than us will probably die before us, but a sudden, unexpected loss of someone we didn’t expect to die becomes a particularly painful experience.

Loss of a dear friend

The entire family of The Georgia Bulletin lost a friend when Executive Editor Mary Anne Castranio died after attending a meeting in Washington, D.C. with fellow editors in the national Catholic press. Mary Anne was too young to die. It struck us like a lightning bolt. First we felt shock, then dismay, then intense sorrow.

Ever since I got the news my mind has been filled with thoughts about her.

Two and a half years ago I approached Mary Anne to gauge her thinking about creating a column in The Georgia Bulletin to address senior issues. I had not worked with her previously and I was a little intimidated by her experience and well-earned reputation. I fortified myself with reasons why the senior column was needed. She listened intently, smiled and said, “You’re right. We need to pay more attention to seniors.” She paused, and then said, “After all, I’m a senior too!”

The ‘Senior Side’ is born

She asked me to draft a first column so she could take a look at the approach. I had prior experience working with editors while writing columns for various retail industry publications. As a novice columnist, I expected my draft would be red-penciled rather generously. I was surprised when she didn’t change a single word. As a result, the “Senior Side” became a reality.

We worked together on 28 issues and she was an absolute delight as she patiently suggested changes or better ways to get across a point. She was always full of energy and enthusiasm accompanied with a tremendous sense of humor. We became good friends and exchanged messages and conversations about the publishing industry and personal views on issues in the church and society.

My last time with her was at a luncheon in the Chancery on Oct 2. I sat at her table and everyone was energized by her wit and wisdom. It is difficult to accept that this person who was so full of life could suddenly be gone.

A lasting legacy

Her daughter, Amy, was her pride and joy. She kept a picture of Amy behind her desk where she worked long hours in advance of every deadline. She relished the frantic, frenetic pace of the publishing business. Every issue of The Georgia Bulletin established the publication as a leader in the Catholic press. The paper’s many awards are a tribute to her vision and drive and the professionalism of the entire team.

She was a consummate newspaper person. Now that she is gone, her daughter and family, the archdiocesan community, her colleagues at The Georgia Bulletin and members of the national Catholic press will sorely miss her.

When one of her editors, G retired a couple years ago, I sent her a note that said, “You can take the girl out of the newspaper but you will never be able to take the newspaper out of the girl.”

I couldn’t think of a better way to send Mary Anne off on her journey to eternity than to repeat that same phrase … “You can take Mary Anne out of The Georgia Bulletin but you will never be able to take The Georgia Bulletin out of Mary Anne.” Her legacy will live with us forever.

As I pondered how to say goodbye, I thought about a German expression that sums up my sentiments. The expression is “auf wiedersehen,” which translated is “until we meet again.” Not goodbye, but until we meet again.

Rest in peace, executive editor.

Bill Clarke, former business executive, teacher and senior citizen, emerged from his third retirement to serve as the associate director of professional development for the archdiocesan Office of Faith Formation and Discipleship. To send your thoughts to Bill, email