CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Community event attendees will soon miss the firm instruction of Lucie Mellert, the volunteer photographer for the Sunday Gazette-Mail's popular "On the Town" feature page.
"Sometimes stern in her approach to getting a photo right, she jokingly has been told she should have been a Marine sergeant," said Judy Grigoraci, a columnist with The Charleston Gazette. "To that end, few probably know that a local company, in their fondness of her, made her an honorary Marine, certificate and all."
Mellert said, "I've never missed a Sunday in 16 years. I'm very bossy. Everyone says I am -- and I am. I want the end photography result to be good because so many people enjoy having their photo in the newspaper."
The promotion of the "good stuff" in the community led Mellert to begin her volunteer work with the Gazette-Mail. "Betty Chilton provided me with a way to contribute to the community," Mellert said.
"There are a lot of good end results. It may be a child's first photograph or an elderly person's first time in the paper. It's helped people to get a job," Mellert said.
"People ask me if I'm a Gazette employee, and I'll tell them how I'm paid. It's been without salary all this time. People will approach me and say, 'You took my photo for the paper,' and they will tell me some wonderful result from it, and I'll tell them, 'That's my payment,'" Mellert said.
It was important to Mellert that "On the Town" be more than "all society." "I thought it could be something more for the community. 'Community' covers everybody, so I make a point of going to the mall and going to ordinary things," Mellert said in an earlier interview with Sandy Wells.
One of the most difficult tasks with the job has been identifying people in the photographs and spelling their names correctly. "I am careful about the spelling of people's names. I am very strict with my naming. I think this is one of the reasons people have respected what I've done," Mellert said.
At the age of 81, she is hanging up her camera strap to move to Point Pleasant with her husband of 55 years, Bill Mellert, to be near their only child, the Rev. James F. Kelly III, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church.
"I'm addicted to taking the photos, so the only way for me to stop is to get out of town," Mellert said with humor. "I'm going to miss everybody.
"I've been explaining at recent events that I'm retiring, and I explain that my main concern is that I don't want 'On the Town' to die or go away after I retire. I want everyone to be interested enough to take the photos and submit them to the Gazette when I'm gone," Mellert said.
Grigoraci said, "In the future, any local event won't be a proper function if we don't see Lucie there in her trademark blazer, turtleneck sweater, hair bow and eclectic pins, brooches and scarves. She related a saying to me once that I have remembered often: 'There isn't anyone who can stick their finger in a glass of water and leave a hole.' Lucie Mellert retiring ... is definitely leaving a hole."
Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamil...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.