Mary Angela King Whyte: A Remembrance
by Julie Edwards, Typesetter and Designer, Druid Hills News and
Jennifer Richardson, Managing Editor, Druid Hills News
On September 17, 2013, Mary Angela Whyte, editor of the Druid Hills News for over 20 years, suffered a debilitating stroke. Her family honored Mary Angela’s wishes that no extreme measures or machines be used to prolong her life if there was no hope of meaningful recovery. Mary Angela died on September 28 at the age of 77.
Mary Angela taught English classes at DeVry University to students struggling to master grammar and composition skills as they embarked on their quest for higher education. It was always her goal to teach her students the proper use of the English language so they might effectively represent and express themselves in college and the workplace. She succeeded, being told by many “you taught me to write.”
Mary Angela grew up in Druid Hills in a half-timbered Tudor Revival house on Springdale Road. Though her travels took her far away, she always considered Druid Hills home. When she returned to Atlanta, she bought a house on Emory Drive and her children attended Druid Hills High. Her keen interest in neighborhood and quality of life issues led her to become active in the Druid Hills Civic Association, which led to her assuming the role of editor of the Druid Hills News.
The hours she spent working on the Druid Hills News were a labor of love. She took the paper from a four page “leaflet” to a large size 18-24 page paper. Jennie Richardson and Mary Angela would brainstorm about what needed to be in the next paper. Jennie was then sent out to beat the bushes for articles (or write them) and also to take photos and compose captions. The two would spend time calling and emailing contributors, community leaders, and advertisers to gather an interesting, balanced, and timely collection of articles, photos, and advertisements for the paper. Once the material was in, Mary Angela would then proofread, edit, and fact-check every piece to make sure it was accurate, unbiased, concise, and ready for publication Then, there were the constant space constraints because each page of the paper had to be paid for by advertisements. Jennie and Mary Angela would agonize over what to leave in, cut out, or put on hold for another issue. Many times, Mary Angela would round out the newsletter with well-researched articles and interviews of her own.
Work on the Druid Hills News was strictly voluntary, as Mary Angela was never paid for her professional skills. She volunteered her time and expertise because she wanted to give back to a place that she considered one of the last civilized places in which to live in Atlanta. What she “gave back” was a quality newspaper packed with useful knowledge, the latest news on neighborhood issues, and fun biographies of Druid Hills luminaries, garden hints, book reviews from local clubs, and both private and public school news. Her strong editing skills and her natural intuition created a paper neatly woven together as individual strings forming a tapestry.
Mary Angela did not lead a charmed life. Her four year-old son died of leukemia. She underwent a painful divorce. She brought her 52 year-old son to Atlanta so that she could care for him during his battle with pancreatic cancer. She was with him when he died on May 15 of this year. And one more time, she picked up the pieces of her life and moved on with courage and without complaint. She had just resumed some social activity when she was felled by the stroke on September 17. Through it all, she relied on a deep religious faith that included regular attendance at mass at Saint Thomas Moor Church in Decatur.
Three more things need to be said about Mary Angela. The first is she was quintessentially Irish. A plaque with Cead Mi’le Failte (a thousand welcomes in Gaelic) was on her door and just about everything inside was “Irish.” The second was that she became not just friend; not just editor, not just mentor; but mother figure to her two underlings at the paper, Jennie and Julie. Mary Angela loved to talk and was a great storyteller. Jennie and Julie were privileged to hear the many stories that never made it into the paper. Finally, though she was short in stature, (slightly under five feet tall) Mary Angela was a powerhouse to contend with in any verbal discourse. She had the voice, wit, and persuasion of a person six feet tall. When she spoke, others listened. She was the champion tree of any forest—towering over things yet accessible to all.
Mary Angela was a strong, faithful, witty, and gracious Southern lady. Her grace, professionalism, and friendly demeanor were apparent in every word she spoke. You may not have known her personally, but through the Druid Hills News and her involvement with the Druid Hills Tour of Homes and Gardens, the life of every Druid Hills resident has been touched by the gifts, talents, and time that Mary Angela Whyte selflessly shared with the neighborhood she loved. The neighborhood and the paper will go on—but there will always be a hole in the heart of us after the loss of Mary Angela.