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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Hey, Arnold

To some, the National Spelling Bee is an endless parade of junior high school misfits who spend way too much time studying the fundamentals of word construction. To former Freeman reporter Hallie Arnold and me, it always was an opportunity to cheer for the unbelievably bright young contestants on the TV screen in our newsroom, marvel at their abilities to spell words we’d never seen or heard and, of course, root for our local entrant.

Hallie (pictured) and I watched the competition each May with the same kind of passion that sports fans exhibit when they watch their favorite team vie for a championship – even high-fiving each other occasionally when a speller successfully tackled a particularly difficult word – and we probably looked a little silly (well, a lot silly) as a result. But it was something that bonded us, and I remember it fondly.

The 2008 bee is going on now – the oral competition began Thursday morning and ends tonight – and nearly two years after Hallie’s passing, I find the event difficult to watch without her.

Hallie, who died at age 40 in August 2006 after battling lung cancer, was a rare breed: honest, friendly, funny, hard-working, easy to talk to and fiercely committed to the things she cared about. And she had a smile that lit up a room.

I keep the photo card from her memorial service tacked to the cubicle wall next to my computer at the Freeman, and rarely a day goes by that I don’t look at the picture and experience the conflicting emotions of happiness for knowing her and sadness over losing her.

I’m sure I’ll think about her tonight, when the spelling bee champion is crowned; and again tomorrow, when the American Cancer Society holds its annual Relay For Life in Kingston, an event at which I’m having a candle lighted in Hallie’s memory. It's hard not to think about her. She was, in a word, unforgettable.

Hallie left us way too soon. But in the years since her death – and especially at the end of May each year – I’ve always felt at least part of her is still with us. And that's comforting.

For more on Hallie, take a few minutes and read the story we published in the Freeman the day after she died.

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January 4, 2009 at 2:12 AM 
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January 4, 2009 at 2:12 AM 

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