How do you celebrate the life of someone truly special after they are gone? Do you hold a parade? Write a song? Build a statue? More importantly, how do you fill the void left by that person? These are the questions Manzanita is left to ponder after the passing of Kay Covert.
By Dan Haag
Kay was my friend. I’d known her as a casual acquaintance of nearly 10 years, but had the opportunity to really get to know her working together on the Manzanita Visitors Center project.
I’ll let you have all the celebrities, and dignitaries in the world; knowing Kay Covert was truly one of the greatest honors of my life.
When I’d heard she had passed, the world instantly felt lessened, like a watershed historical moment.There was a Manzanita with Kay and a Manzanita without her, and things would never be the same.
As the tears came and went and came again, a clearer picture of who and what we have lost and what we must do now developed.
Who Kay was cannot be boiled down to one label because she was a universe of things; a loving wife and mother, a successful entrepreneur, a supporter of the arts, a believer in progress and improvement.
Kay was also a devoted servant of the community and she wore it like a badge of honor. When it came to loving this town and this area, she gave of her time and talent without pause. Her passionate work on behalf of the Manzanita Business Alliance and later Chamber of Commerce was a love letter to the place she called home.
On any given day, she could be seen strolling Laneda Avenue, chatting with people and carrying a stack of binders on her way to another meeting. She’d always wave and smile at everyone, often holding her fingers up to an ear in the shape of a phone as she juggled her binders.
Kay continually surprised me. She was sweet-natured and charming and never talked down to you.When you talked to her, you were her equal, her friend, her potential recruit. I often went home after a meeting wondering how or why I had volunteered to do something. It wasn’t actually that complicated: Kay had asked. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets,” Kay made me want to be a better man.
Her laugh was disarming and her ability to diffuse situations with soft words and a smile was uncanny. I remember many a meeting where the room crackled with tension and only Kay stood between total chaos. Somehow, the slight woman with the shock of white hair and quiet demeanor would calm the crowd and press on. Her ability to speak respectfully, make eye contact, and listen was not lip service; she believed in open discussion the sharing of opinions. She was the very definition of grace under pressure.
While she often spoke softly, she could also carry a big stick. Kay had a dry, whip-smart sense of humor that would often catch me off-guard. I nearly fell out of my chair the first time she dropped an ‘F-bomb’ in front of me. She immediately clamped her hand over her mouth, her eyes as wide as saucers, and declared “Oh, I’m so sorry!” My respect for her deepened ten-fold at that moment.
With apologies to husband Walt and son Max, Kay belonged to all of us. She was a community treasure, a brightly burning beacon of our community spirit. When she went out to represent Manzanita at county or state functions, we could rest easy knowing we were in good hands. She pushed us all to make our town more than just a destination; she pushed us to make it a home.
The day the Visitors Center opened, I had the privilege of standing beside Kay as people began streaming in to see the new space. Her eyes welled up and she squeezed my arm. “This is really good,” she said. The pride she felt over the project radiated from her like a physical force.
Trying to come to grips with her absence feels unbearable, but bear it I will. Kay did not suffer fools and she certainly did not believe in quitting. Not with so much work to left to do.
That is how we celebrate the life of Kay Covert. We see the groundwork and foundations she lovingly built and we press on. We never flinch away from a difficult task. Most importantly, we love our families, friends, and neighbors and use that love to build and shape our community.