Sometimes something said in passing influences your life, and the lives of many others, quite by a happy accident. Such is the case with “Today in Johnson City History.” If you enjoy reading the column in the Johnson City Press, you have Cindy Torbett to thank for it. I can’t imagine it would exist, at least in its present form, were it not for Cindy.
Cindy Torbett departed this life early on the evening of Friday, November 27, 2020. After spending nearly two weeks in the ICU, a victim of COVID, her body could no longer fight.
Now back to “Today in Johnson City History.”
In 2018, I was serving on Johnson City’s Sesquicentennial Commission. I’d been in a prayer group with Cindy for years. In early October, 2018, Cindy, who was a guidance counselor at Colonial Heights Middle School, and I were lingering over a cup of coffee after the other ladies in our prayer group had taken their leave.
Cindy said, “You know, Kingsport celebrated their Centennial in 2017. As I drove to school, I usually heard an announcement on the radio that said, ‘On this day, this historical or interesting thing happened in Kingsport.’ Have you ever thought about doing something similar for Johnson City?”
Well, no, I hadn’t. Until then. I called Sam Watson at the Johnson City Press and asked him if he would publish something of the sort, if it were available. He readily agreed, so I was off with my project, which you can read and enjoy daily in the newspaper.
I’ve known Cindy since she was born. My Aunt Lena and Cindy’s grandmother were roommates when they both worked at the Kingsport Press in the 1920’s; the families stayed in contact over the decades. My earliest memory of Cindy is when she, her mother and her grandmother came to visit my parents and grandmother when Aunt Lena, who by then lived in St. Louis, was visiting us. Cindy was probably about three or four months old at the time.
Let’s fast forward to 1986 when Cindy Ison married Phil Torbett. I’ve known Phil ever since I can remember; his mother was one of my very early Sunday School teachers. I was thrilled they were marrying each other! We saw each other often at church until COVID.
In the late 1980’s, I began working at Home Federal; Cindy was already working there. While we didn’t work together, we often needed to talk to each other. I always loved interacting with Cindy, because she was so cheerful, pleasant and willing to help.
I’m not sure when Cindy joined the Junior League, but I was happy to find her friendly face at the first meeting I attended. We worked together on many committees over the years. I especially remember working on the Bag-a-Bargain committee. Lottie Ryans chaired the first event, and Mary Duke McCartt was the assistant chair. Cindy was treasurer, Joy Fields Miller was publicity chair and I was in charge of getting the equipment. There were other committee members, but their names and roles escape me. Cindy could have told me.
As a committee, we met often for about two years. Cindy was very foresighted and always had helpful comments and suggestions. If one of us had what Cindy thought was an untoward idea, Cindy would wisely and tactfully say, “Have you thought about maybe doing it this way instead? Can we give a little thought to that?” Well, yes, we could, and usually incorporated Cindy’s ideas. They must have paid off, because we raised more than $30,000 in 1992 at our first Bag-a-Bargain. Today, that’s the equivalent of more than $55,500. The fundraiser continued for many years, and has recently been revamped and revised to accommodate COVID-19.
During those Bag-a-Bargain committee days, Cindy would share with us some of her words of wisdom. I wish I had written them all down. I share with you two that I especially remember.
Cindy often said, “You’re leading people if they talk about you behind your back. You have to be in front for them to be behind your back.”
Another piece of practical knowledge Cindy shared was. “If you want people to know something, like you’ve gotten a promotion at work, or you’re going to be president of the Junior League, tell two or three well-connected friends. They will spread the word for you, so you don’t have to.” When I divorced my ex-husband because of domestic violence, I remembered Cindy’s words and put them into practice. She was so right!
Cindy, you left your fingerprints upon all of us who knew you and were blessed with your friendship. Rest in Heavenly peace, my dear friend. I know you are.
Copyright, November 28, 2020 by Rebecca A. Henderson