It’s not goodbye. It’s see you around.

That’s what Kathy McDonough said to her customers last week as she made her final rounds as the Coastal Journal’s Greater Brunswick advertising representative.

These are relationships she has built over the last 24 years, and there were big hugs and a few tears.

But no goodbyes.

“I’ll be in,” Kathy reassured Richard Gnauk, founder of Richard’s Restaurant in Brunswick. He stopped by the table at Kathy’s retirement lunch to offer his good wishes.

“You better,” Richard laughed, sitting down to visit. This is a special lady, he told the Coastal Journal staff as we ate Reuben sandwiches and sipped ice tea.

Kathy started working at the Coastal Journal in November 1994 after a divorce brought her and her young sons, Trevor and Pete, back from Maryland to Maine.

Her roots are here. She grew up in Pownal and graduated from Freeport High School.

While taking a course designed to help single moms get back into the workforce, Kathy met a woman who said the Coastal Journal was hiring.

She started the job with just 8 accounts, and recalls, “The pay was really bad – like $6 an hour. I think I made $129 a week. I thought, ‘I have to support two kids on this?’”

But Kathy stuck with the CJ. To make ends meet, she picked up shifts at L.L. Bean on the weekends, where she had previously worked for 16 years.

“I wanted to make it work at the Coastal Journal. It was so much fun meeting new people and getting to know them,” she said.

And as the years ticked by, those people became more than customers. Many of them became friends.

“I enjoy Kathy as a person – she is wonderfully authentic, and she and I have had many conversations over the years about our mutual interests, particularly older people and the issues surrounding an aging population,” said Mary Lou Ciolfi, former director of HillHouse Assisted Living in Bath.

It took a couple of years, but eventually Kathy gave up working weekends. “About the time my youngest son, Trevor, said to me, ‘Mama, I miss you. Do you have to keep working all the time,’ I said to myself, that’s it. I’m just going to have the one job, even if we have to eat cereal every night.”

What started as eight accounts grew to over 200.

Kathy attributes that to persistence.

“It took me three years to get Grand City,” she said. “I went in one day and the owner said to me, ‘Kathy, you’ve been trying for three years. Most people give up. I guess I’ll have to buy an ad.’”

That ad ran every week until Grand City closed in 2008.

But it’s also being pleasant, Kathy said. “You don’t have to be pushy to sell ads. But you do have to really care about people.”

That’s something about Kathy that Mary Lou admired, as well.

“She has always been so pleasant, kind, responsive, interested in and attentive to the needs of advertising customers and to me personally as a contributing writer to the Midcoast Health Journal … She embodied customer service and always had our customer needs as her priority.”

Kathy is looking forward to spending time with her husband Jim. They’ve been together for 15 years and live in Topsham.

Both enjoy gardening, and Kathy plans to also learn new crafts, and continue exploring the outdoors in her kayak and on hikes.

She has two grandchildren – Seamus, age 7, and Elsa, age 5 – that she can’t wait to spend more time with.

A lot has changed since November 1994 when Kathy began her career in sales.

“I remember people saying ‘who would ever bother to advertise online. No one is going to read that. Now that’s where people go,” she said, laughing as she sat in our big sunny office the afternoon before her last day.

But a lot hasn’t.

“People love the Coastal Journal,” Kathy said. “There were years when there was stuff about the paper that wasn’t so good, but no matter what, people would pick it up.”

I asked, “Why do you think that is?”

“Part of it was loyalty and relationships salespeople built, and the area we covered. But it was also that we always had something – Coastal Cooking, Coastal Characters, and our calendar. There is no place else that lists everything except the Coastal Journal,” she said, adding, “There’s just so much you get in the Coastal Journal that you can’t get anywhere else.”

Kathy, you were one of those things. What makes the Coastal Journal special is employees like you.

We’ll see you around.

 

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