‘Recycling’ embodies a way of life for The Courier staff

When The Baptist Courier turned 125 in 1994, an article touted, “Courier believes in recycling,” noting that three of its staff members had been employed by the newspaper before. As the saying goes, the more things change …

In 2019, there are still three “recycled” employees at The Courier — one of whom has returned not twice, but thrice. It’s a testament to the kind of workplace environment found at The Courier, where workmates quickly become family.

Rudy Gray, a pastor/counselor-turned-editor, earlier had served three terms as a Courier trustee during his 37 years in the ministry. A former president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, he was a trustee of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for 10 years.

Rudy, a self-described “saxophone player wannabe” who fancies himself as “Rudy G” (a la Kenny G), scours Craig’s List for used battery-powered drivable toy cars to rebuild with juiced-up power, supposedly for his two grandsons and granddaughter. He and his wife of 42 years, Anne, met while he was making a pastoral visit to her family after her grandfather passed away. When he finally mustered up the courage later to ask her out, she “turned me down flat,” he recalls. He later found out she had a standing commitment with her family then, and he’s glad he asked her again for a date.

Denise Huffman is the longest “recycled” employee, now in her second stint at The Courier. In total, she has been on the paper’s staff for 38 years (1977-80, 1984-present), working with three editors: John Roberts, Don Kirkland, and Rudy Gray. A persevering and hard-working soul, she completed her BA degree in history from Furman University in 2014, attending classes for 10 years while she worked as administrative assistant at The Courier. Her title recently was upgraded to editorial assistant, reflecting her ever-increasing responsibilities with Courier Publishing.

Denise’s husband, Gary, recently retired from Furman. Their son, Erik (also a Furman graduate), became something of a local celebrity when he appeared as a contestant on “Survivor: China.” After visiting him in China, Denise holds the distinction of being the only Courier staff member to make a guest appearance on a CBS reality show. Erik, now a physician assistant in Charleston, may not have won the cash loot, but he did come away with a prize: He met his future wife, Jaime, through the show.

Carolyn Rainey, however, is the staff member who has been recycled the most, serving three times since 1972 for a total of a little over 10 years. Previously serving as an administrative assistant, she also worked in circulation, returning in 2015 to work in that department. In between her stints at The Courier, she worked for a law firm, an insurance agency, and the Furman athletic ticket office.

But the third time just may be the charm: The Courier is “the best place I’ve ever worked,” Carolyn confides. If pressed, she humbly admits to having once been part of a 10K running team for The Courier years ago with former Associate Editor Fletcher Allen and then Assistant Editor Don Kirkland. And it’s said that on more than one occasion this grandmother of five has left her cell phone at the office for days and not even missed it.

Chris Holliday, business manager since 2017, previously owned an accounting business and worked as a CPR and AED instructor. Born and raised in Easley, he graduated from Central Wesleyan College (now Southern Wesleyan University).

From his walls and bookshelves, it’s obvious he enjoys golf and, by his own word, once played often enough to have a 4 handicap. He also loves all things Clemson, and his first order of business on Mondays in the fall is to break down the Tigers game performance for any staff member who happens by. His wife, Kenda, is administrative assistant at City View First Baptist Church in Greenville, and they love hitting the road to Florence at every opportunity to visit their grandbabies.

Candace Rathbone joined the staff as graphic designer last fall. A graduate and avid fan of the University of South Carolina, she previously worked as a senior art director for a local ad agency and as marketing director for an Easley bank. She has been married 30 years to her husband, Rusty, and they have one daughter, Ally, who is an elementary school teacher.

Candace played volleyball for North Greenville College as a student, and she still loves watching sports and is a big admirer of Van Gogh’s art. Her favorite vacation spots are Pigeon Forge and Myrtle Beach, but if she had some “extra, extra money,” she’d rather be at Disney World, she said.

Two-time Managing Editor Todd Deaton is the latest to join the recycled club. He returned from Louisville in March from a 10-year tenure as editor of the Western Recorder. In doing so, he succeeded Butch Blume, who recently retired, after Butch had succeeded him as the managing editor back in 2009. When Deaton, who then had served at The Courier for 13 years, departed for the Bluegrass state, he allegedly left behind a favorite locomotive clock intentionally, which some staffers say nearly drove the former editor mad and contemplating an early retirement.

He is married to Michelle, with whom, many longtime readers will recall, he collaborated in writing the “Sand Dollar Cove” stories for The Courier during his first go-round. Their daughter, Laura, is now grown and recently moved back from Louisville to take a school nurse position, and their son, Caleb, is a senior aviation major at Eastern Kentucky University.

In retirement, Butch is serving as part-time book production associate for Courier Publishing. Earlier employed at Anderson University as director of communications, he worked at The Courier for 20 years, the first half as editorial assistant. He and his wife, Debbie, who also retired this year from teaching public school music, plan to wander the countryside in their new camper.

Butch also served more than 26 years as a bivocational music minister. He gained repute at The Courier as the resident impressionist and poet. An introvert at heart, however, he liked to get away from it all by walking downtown for lunch. Around the office, he was good-naturedly dubbed “Dougie Downer” for his “gift” of pointing out what might go wrong.

But even before Butch’s departure and Todd’s return, for much of the past 25 years there were still three “recycled” employees. In addition to Denise Huffman, Debbie Grooms (who retired two years ago) had earlier worked at The Courier — first as a secretary in 1973, then rehired in circulation in 1983, before returning again as a typesetter in 1985 and advancing through other roles to the business manager position in 1994. Donna Porter worked twice at The Courier: Her first stint was in the circulation department, 1973-77, and the second stint was layout artist/graphic designer, 1989-2013.