There’s only one Starine

Steve Heath

For the second time in less than a year I’m writing a blog about losing a friend and colleague and I have to tell you, it sucks! Starine Reese has passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

About 11 months ago, another of my direct reports, Tom Lawson, also succumbed to cancer. Like Starine, Tom was one of a kind. Losing two like them really hurts—on so many levels.

Starine went out on medical leave at the end of July. Right up to the end, both of us were hoping against hope that she would triumph over that awful disease and return to work.

Naturally, we held her job open for her return. Her staff pitched in to keep our Impact programs moving. Starine put her heart and soul into those projects and there was no way her staff would let them fail.

The last time I spoke with Starine by phone, she had called to give me an update on her treatment and talk about working from home part-time as soon as she could get clearance from her doctor.

She really loved her job (and it loved her). And just writing that sentence makes me chuckle a bit because I sort of had to trick her into taking the job in the first place.

There was never any question whether she was qualified to be our Vice President of Community Impact. She had been a nonprofit executive director and helped us invent and evolve our Impact process.

But when I announced that I was filling the vacant leadership role in that department by elevating it to Vice President, she wasn’t sure she wanted the job.

Her daughter, Allie, was in her last year or so of high school and soon would be going away to college. Starine didn’t want to miss one precious moment with Allie (who, by the way, is also very special).

And in her own mind, Starine wasn’t sure she was the right person; not sure she had what it took or that she wanted to take on the added responsibility.

So, at first, she turned down the promotion. But I talked her into accepting it in an “acting” role and then I made her part of the panel interviewing candidates.

Soon I could tell she was enjoying the role. She was taking “ownership” of the department and our projects, behaving like she planned to stay instead of just being a caretaker.

And as I watched her react to some of the candidates we interviewed for the position, it was clear she had begun to realize that not only did she have what it takes, she had more of it than they did.

So about halfway through the interview process, she sort of sheepishly came into my office and said, “Why don’t you stop the search. I want the job after all.” We never looked back.

Starine’s accomplishments and their benefit to our regional community could fill far more pages than I’ve been allotted for this blog.

Suffice it to say, there was only one Starine Reese. We are going to replace her and her replacement will also be excellent and achieve great things. But there will still be only one Starine. Rest in peace.


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