BY DAN MILLER
February 16, 2006
Does it flounder there inside the wires and circuits and software that make up the internet?
Does it wait forever to someday be opened and read?
Does it eventually just vanish?
In 1999, I was granted an interview with the elusive parents of JonBenet Ramsey, who hadn't spoken to the press in two years.
Parts of that interview ended up on NBC Nightly News.
After that national exposure, I immediately heard from several old friends who happened to see it.
Among them, an email from a woman named Winona Warner.
We had worked together from late 1960 until early 1962 at WJBF-TV in Augusta.
I was still a teenager, working part time as a film editor (my first real job).
She was a woman of around 40, who was Administrative Assistant to J. B. Fuqua, the owner of WJBF.
In what might be called a G-rated version of Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate", Winona taught me the pleasures of cooked rutabagas.
Many days at lunchtime, we'd walk together a few blocks to the S. H. Kress Dime store, where the lunch counter served wonderful meats and vegetables.... and where Winona insisted that I try rutabagas.... and I became instantly hooked.
Now, before you get any wrong ideas, I also knew Winona's husband Otis and their cute young daughter Christie (who years later married a friend of mine).
Again, remember this was the early 1960s.
Anyhow, after that initial note from Winona in 1999, we started emailing back and forth fairly regularly, though weeks or months might pass between emails.
She joked about how odd it felt to be "80 years old".
I sent her pictures of my wife and my new daughter, and kept her informed about our vacations and birthdays and such.
We'd reminisce through email about the old days at WJBF, and about the people we worked with.... where they were now.... which ones had died, or divorced, or disappeared.... and who we had seen or spoken with.
Occasionally, she would mention the sad, untimely death years ago of Christie, her only child.
She regretted that she and Otis never had grandkids.
In 2001, she waited until weeks after the fact, but eventually let me know Otis had died, after more than 60 years of marriage.
In one email, to my surprise, she said she had left Augusta and was living in North Carolina -- though she didn't say exactly where.
That's the thing about email.... there's no postmark, so it could be from anywhere.
Once, Winona even put me in touch with J. B. Fuqua, our old boss (now deceased) who was in his late 80s, living in Atlanta. He and I communicated a bit, though I don't think he actually remembered me.
J. B. had written a book in which he mentioned Winona a number of times.
About six months ago, I sent Winona an updated picture of my daughter.
I was looking forward to reading her comments on how McKensie had grown.
But I got no response.
I sent another email, asking if everything was OK.
Still no response.
On a whim, I went on the internet and simply typed in: >Winona Warner Augusta<
A chill grabbed my chest when the Augusta Chronicle newspaper obituaries popped up, with a list of names, including Winona Warner, 84.
She had died in a nursing home in North Carolina.
She had been buried in Augusta.
I felt such a sense of loss for a person I'd not seen in 40 years.
I hope she saw my email.
I hope she knew that I valued our friendship..... and that I still like rutabagas.