Remember the Girl from Windber

By Adam Porter, EIC NOKP

It was December 15th and I was sitting at my desk looking through January submissions when I heard the news. Dora Murray had written her last “That Was Then” article for News of Kings Point. In it she talked of Christmases past and of folks who used to sit around the table sharing Christmas dinner… “gone now,” she wrote, “but not forgotten.” Now, it seemed, Dora had joined them at a much larger table and a more glorious feast.

I was first introduced to Dora Murray through a press release she submitted for the Pelican Players. It came almost exactly one year ago today. Her enthusiasm for the group shone through:

“Become part of theater life on stage or off!  These workshops encourage and teach all manner of theater skills.” The release went on to mention the Pot Luck Social and Open Mike night, the upcoming Pelican Players shows and the important charity work the groups does to fund scholarships for aspiring students of the arts. “We do good,” she wrote, “so please support our efforts.”

She was tireless and completely devoted to promoting the group she loved. Her enthusiasm was so complete that she easily won me over. After reading through her submission I decided, nearly on the spot, to make the Pelican Players an upcoming feature article. I met with a few of those folks – Chet, Dick and Chuck – and learned that Dora’s enthusiasm was very well placed.

It would be a few months before I heard from Dora again. The tone of her email was warm, albeit slightly nervous. She had written previously, she explained. A series of stories about growing up in the small town of Windber, Pennsylvania. Would I be interested in looking at one of the articles? Not certain what to expect, but already won over by her boundless enthusiasm, I agreed.

Dora’s first “Windber” story was published in the News of Kings Point in September of 2010. In it she talked lovingly and poetically about the place she once called home:

“I loved my little town. Mother Nature paints each season with her magic. The mines, once a source of work, are deserted, Bethlehem Steel looms a rusty hulk. Both silent! Both dead! The voices of the workers no longer heard. The rattling of lunch buckets being opened stilled.  It was said that there was a church on every corner and a bar on the opposite. But that was then and this is now. Some of our beautiful churches are closed, as are some of the bars. But Windber is ALIVE and WELL.”

In November, she talked of a “Child’s Paradise.” Of sledding, skating and snow days. These things a boy from the Sunshine State finds hard to imagine, but with Dora’s help I could build them in my mind’s eye.

Her December story was my favorite because in it she revealed not only her whimsy but also her pluck. She recalled being a Christmas Baby who refused to allow her loved ones to skip doubling up on presents. She would celebrate her birthday AND Jesus’, thank you very much! And, of course, she wrote about “then and now”:

“Now one can go to the grocery store and they prepare the whole Christmas Dinner. Now you can see Scrooge with all his ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future on TV instead of listening to the tale on the radio with your parents. Mince meat pies are not made with meat. But that Christmas Spirit is alive and well. Merry Christmas!”

She also spoke of those she had loved and lost:

“Most of those I loved at those Christmas dinners are gone, but they live on in my memory. I close my eyes and there they are laughing, loving, just as I remember them. Time has not diminished my love for them.”

When writing of her beloved hometown, Dora often closed with this: “For those of us who have moved on, She (Windber) lives on in our hearts and memories.”

The author, of course, lives on much the same, in the hearts and memories of the many she touched. She will be remembered for her window back in time and her enthusiasm for the present. Both will be greatly missed. Farewell to the girl from Windber, the lady who always made me smile.

Godspeed, Dora.

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