Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Passing of a Woman of Significance

Margie Fisher (right), probably in the 1950s.>

It is with a tinge of sadness that I noted the passing of Margie Fisher, something of a Brenda Starr figure during her best days as a reporter for Roanoke's local daily paper. Margie will be remembered as "the first woman" this and "the first woman" that, but I remember her as being one of the most respected reporters on a staff of good news people at the paper during a time when it was an outstanding newspaper.

Margie was a flashy, good-looking blonde who wore bright-colored dresses that swirled and whose smile could buckle the knees of some of those grizzled editors. She was also as tough as any of them and a woman who'd sit with you and talk for hours about things that were important to you. She was known as a political reporter of grit and substance, but she was also a fine and sensitive writer whose wit always shone through.

Seemed to me, she took life in small bites, chewed them well and digested thoroughly. I had the impression that Margie was about as well adjusted as anybody I knew, despite the obvious difficulty of being a woman in a new world for women at the time. I don't recall hearing her complain about it, or, frankly, even mention the subtle discrimination--especially in Richmond, where she covered the exclusive boys club of the General Assembly--except to laugh at it and its practitioners.

Margie came up through the ranks, starting as a minor functionary in advertising and moving over to the bottom rung of the news department. When I got to the local daily in 1971, she was already established as one of the best reporters on an excellent team--and one of the genuine eccentrics in a newsroom full of them: Ozzy Osborne (one of her best friends), Mary Bland Armistead, Cecil Edmonds, Ben Beagle, Bill Brill, Buster Carrico, Mike Ives, Chris Gladden (as a young and intimidated "editorial assistant") and a bunch more like them.

It was a very different time for all of us and Margie made it better.

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