“Annabel was Danville” – Longtime Advocate reporter Girard remembered as a trusted journalist and true friend

Published 4:00 am Friday, December 16, 2022


Contributing writer

For more than a quarter-century, Annabel Girard wrote our story.

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From city hall to the country roads, Girard chronicled life in and around Danville as a reporter for The Advocate-Messenger.

Girard, who died Tuesday at age 82 after a long illness, spent most of her professional life at the Advocate, and her work endeared her to readers and earned her the trust of public officials.

Girard came to the Advocate in 1979 and remained until her retirement in 2006, and she seemed to have her finger on the pulse of the community throughout those years.

“Annabel was Danville,” said Brenda Edwards, a longtime friend and a colleague of Girard’s throughout her time at the Advocate.

Girard filled tens of thousands of column inches during her time at the Advocate with unwavering coverage of Danville city government, columns on community happenings and everything in between.

“She was a really great newspaper reporter and a great human being,” former Advocate managing editor John Davis said.

Girard took ownership of the city hall beat, immersing herself in the details of municipal government.

“In addition to knowing everything that was going on around town, she was an expert in covering government, and she was totally devoted to that,” Davis said. “People in Danville knew what was going on in their city government because of her.”

Former Danville mayor John W.D. Bowling said he developed a tremendous respect for Girard during his 20 years in municipal government, first as a city commissioner and later as mayor.

“She was surely in touch with the community, she was in tune and she was genuine,” Bowling said. “She was a professional to the highest degree. She always reported what was said or discussed whether we liked it or not, and she never put her spin on it. She was more than fair.”

Davis said Girard took the time to pore over financial reports and other documents and to talk to people who knew she would not break their trust.

“She had great sources. She really knew what was going on, and she probably knew more than she was able to report sometimes,” he said.

Edwards said Girard, who also covered Boyle County government and other beats at various times, fit the description of a watchdog journalist very well.

“She watched them like a hawk, and she was good at it,” Edwards said. “She loved covering the city government, and she liked the political aspect of it.”

Bowling said he developed a friendship with Girard over time, even though he didn’t always agree with her.

“I trusted her,” he said. “It was that simple. I trusted her, and I think she trusted me, also.”

He said Girard was well liked by city employees.

“She was the Danville Advocate-Messenger when it came to city hall,” Bowling said. “I think everybody there all had a rapport with her. They respected her, they liked her, and she had a knack for getting information that other reporters didn’t.”

Girard was not only respected but also relatable, Edwards said.

“It was probably her personality. And I know people trusted her writing,” Edwards said. “She was just a very nice person to be around.”

Edwards said she and Girard became friends soon after Girard joined the Advocate newsroom, and they occupied adjacent desks for more than 20 years after the newspaper moved from West Walnut Street to South Fourth Street in 1985.

“She was always so jolly, always in a good mood,” Edwards said.

Charlie Perry, a retired local radio personality, said he became friends with Girard as they worked alongside each other at community events for many years.

“She had a good sense of humor. She was a lot of fun, especially at a press conference or an event like that,” Perry said.

Perry said, however, that Girard’s good nature didn’t override her objectivity.

“I think that she was a true professional journalist,” he said. “She was very open to listening, but she had to be persuaded very strongly that what she was writing about would be correct.”

Davis said even subjects who didn’t like something Girard had written typically still liked her.

“She was a difficult person to dislike because she never took anything personally,” he said. “She was just doing her job, and she was fair. She didn’t really have favorites.”

In addition to news and feature stories, Girard wrote a column, “Around Town,” that focused on local people and events.

A 1987 column, for example, spotlighted a fund drive to help pay the medical expenses of a man injured in a hunting accident and a school principal who was given a rocking chair by her students after she had a baby.

“She just used short items about different people who were known around town, about what they were doing,” Edwards said.

She also solicited items from readers for two regular features of the column, “Random Act of Kindness” and “Pet Peeve.”

Girard came to Danville with her husband, Chuck, a chemistry professor at Centre College.

Annabel and Chuck Girard were married for 51 years until his death in October 2021 and are survived by two children, Charles Dudley and Mary Ashby, and two grandchildren, Annabel Girard and Arturo Constantine Borges.

Journalism was the fourth career for Girard, who worked briefly as a clerk for a Lexington storage company in the early 1960s, then worked first as a secretary and later as a teacher at Sayre School in Lexington.

Prior to joining the Advocate, she wrote for the Danville Quarterly Newsletter, a nonprofit publication established in 1974 by a group of local residents who were not satisfied with the Advocate’s coverage of various local and national issues.

The newsletter was discontinued in 1977, and she resumed reporting in 1979 as a stringer for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal.

Girard also came to the Advocate that year, and Edwards said one her friend’s first duties there was maintaining clip files, compilations of clipped stories clipped from the pages of the newspaper that were organized by subject.

“She was working there when I got there in ’79, and she was stringing for the C-J,” Davis said. “When I came we put her on staff as a regular reporter for the paper.”

Girard was one of the pillars of a newsroom populated by experienced journalists, and Davis said he had the utmost trust in her news judgment. He recounted a story of when Girard introduced her daughter Mary Ashby to him.

“She said, ‘This is the person who I tell what I’m gonna do,’ and that was right,” Davis said. “She was a pleasure to work with.”

Davis said Girard also was a mentor and valuable resource for young reporters.

“She was a real leader in the community and at the newspaper,” he said. “We’d hire a new person, an intern, and Annabel was very helpful to any new person coming in.”

In a 2015 story marking the Advocate’s 150th anniversary that appeared in a corporate publication of Schurz Communications Inc., the newspaper’s parent company at the time, Girard said she loved reporting on community meetings for those who couldn’t attend them. She said her favorite part of her time with the newspaper was getting the news out there.

“I swear, when I retired my blood pressure dropped 20 points,” she said.

Girard was active in a number of professional and civic organizations, including the American Association of University Women. She held several positions in AAUW, including state co-president, vice president and editor of its statewide newsletter.

She was named the 1984 Woman of the Year by the Danville Business and Professional Women’s Club.

She served on the board of the Boyle County Public Library and helped establish the Friends of the Library charitable organization, and she also served on the board of the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service District.

“She was a lady of the highest degree,” Bowling said. “She’s going to be missed, but her legacy will go on for many, many years. She was a major, major asset to this community.”