Boyle County delivers proper burial for longtime newspaper carrier

May 28, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

The newspaper went out the Advocate's door at 11:45 a.m. that day. Across town many of the carriers were at Bellvue Cemetery.

Lined up in a funeral procession, yellow lights perched on top of their cars, the carriers had come to witness the delivery of Carolyn Clarkson from this life to the next.

A light drizzle fell through the dogwoods as they gathered under a green tent sheltering the gravesite.

Clarkson's daughter and grandaughter left the service that chilly March morning and went directly to pick up their newspapers warm off the press. They would carry on with their routes.

It's the way Clarkson would have wanted it.

She was an Advocate-Messenger carrier for more than 30 years. Every day, every day, every day she loaded up her car with the day's news and brought it to her customers who called her "Granny."


Carriers are independent contractors. They pay for the papers and collect from their customers. Some mail in payments. Some leave checks in the paper boxes. Some of Clarkson's customers bartered with her.

Her route would have produced about $600 a month if she collected money from everyone. She sometimes took a lawn mowing or help around her home instead. The salary supported her and her husband, who is infirm. Clarkson also received $400 a month from Social Security.

At 77, she didn't own much. Although she had worked all of her life, there wasn't money for a funeral. The cost of an average adult funeral is $5,180, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. That would have been more than five months of income for Clarkson.

Her family didn't have the money for a funeral either. But in Boyle County, everyone gets a proper burial, no matter how much money they have or who they are.

County pays up to $300 for funeral expenses

Boyle pays up to $300 to families who can certify that neither the deceased or the family has money for the funeral expenses.

The casket is plain gray. Visitation and graveside services are held the same day. But, except for the bill, one would have a hard time distinguishing between a county funeral and a simple one.

If the deceased lives in the Danville city limits, he or she is given a plot at Bellevue Cemetery. The cost of the funeral not covered by the county stipend is absorbed by the funeral home.

Clarkson's funeral was held at Preston-Pruitt Funeral Home, where wooden chairs were set up for visitors and conversation wandered from cornbread to newspapers to sweet memories of Clarkson.

Her hair had been combed straight back to the nape of her neck and her head rested on a white, ruffled pillow. On top of the casket was a spray of carnations and leatherleaf fern.

A funeral basket with yellow daises, white spider mums and pink lillies sat on the floor. On a wire easel hung copper-colored windchimes tied up with sheer indigo ribbon. Someone had sent a silk orchid arrangement.

After the service, her daughter and granddaughter delivered papers

The graveside service was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. so Clarkson’s daughter and granddaughter could get back to the newspaper in time to throw papers.

The pallbearers all work at The Advocate, and much of the circulation department attended the funeral.

Circulation director Edwin Findley gave the eulogy.

After the services, Clarkson’s daughter, Judy Pittman, loaded up the flowers in her car, and didn’t stop to drop them off before she threw papers on her own route.

Clarkson, Pittman and her daughter, Anita Wood, look like the same person in pictures taken decades apart. Their round cheeks turn red when they laugh, and their eyes light up easily. None stands taller than 5 feet.

They say Clarkson was a sweet, godly woman. She loved her husband, Lewis, so much so that she refused to have an operation she desperately needed because it would mean time away from him.

She had an obstruction in her throat that made it difficult for her to swallow. For years she lived on packets of tartar sauce, milk and butterscotch candies.

Her favorite job was newspaper carrier

Her family says that her favorite job was as a newspaper carrier. At one time she did two routes for the Advocate and two for the Lexington Herald-Leader. It would have required her to work both early mornings and all afternoon.

Her grandaughter, Walker, who took over Clarkson's route when she died, said her grandmother loved the paper, read it every day. Sometimes she spent as much time visiting with customers as she did throwing papers. Rarely did she miss a day.

Then she got sick. Pneumonia took hold of her frail body. There was a gallbladder infection and her kidneys quit. She died soon after.

In other places Clarkson might have had to been cremated or laid to rest in a metal box. Not in Boyle County.

Funeral directors here agree that everyone deserves a funeral. And for Clarkson, they delivered.

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