Longtime Chowan Herald journalist Bunch mourned

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By Miles Layton
Chowan Herald

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

EDENTON — Longtime Chowan Herald journalist Rebecca Bunch is being remembered not only for her four decades of newspaper work but also for her tireless advocacy of the community she called home.

Bunch died Sunday at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. She was 64.

Mike Goodman, publisher of The Daily Advance, the Chowan Herald and The Perquimans Weekly, said Monday he mourns the loss of a valued colleague.

“I am saddened personally by Rebecca's passing and will miss her kind, caring nature,” he said. “The community where she lived and worked, and which she loved, also will miss her dearly, I'm sure.”

Many of those who knew and worked with Bunch in Edenton for decades are also mourning her death.

Town Manager Anne-Marie Knighton said she considered Bunch more than a newspaper reporter; she also thought of her as a friend.

“I am heartbroken over the loss of Rebecca Bunch,” she said. “Edenton has lost a special journalist who was the eyes and ears of our community for decades. She told Edenton's story week after week and she strived to write the complete story. And citizens trusted her to write the important news stories of the week.”

Knighton praised Bunch's skill at capturing the human element of a story.

“She had this incredible skill of being able to capture the human side of news stories,” Knighton. “One of the last articles Becky wrote, about the 15-year anniversary of Hurricane Isabel, was an example of her outstanding ability to weave individual people's recollections into an interesting narrative.”

Bunch, a Burlington native who graduated from John A. Holmes High School in 1973, didn’t start out her newspaper career as a writer and reporter. When she was first hired at the Chowan Herald by then-Publisher Bud Amburn in 1978, Bunch initially sold advertising and worked in production of the newspaper.

Amburn, who left the newspaper in 1985, said he hired Bunch because she “showed a compelling desire to work, doing anything.” Amburn said he was ”shocked” to learn of Bunch’s death, saying he considered her family.

Pete Manning, who was working as the Chowan Herald’s general manager when Bunch arrived, recalled how she was working in the advertising department when she decided she wanted to be a writer for the paper.  

“She constantly inquired and observed experienced writers and editors at the Herald, learning everything she could in writing as well as other aspects of newspaper,” he said.

Manning, who retired as the Herald’s publisher in 2002, said Bunch was a “person of few words and a quiet leader” whose hard work resulted in her being promoted to news editor.

“She worked extremely hard and could have been found at work early in the morning as well as late at night,” Manning said. “Becky can most be remembered for her willingness to cover stories in our community thoroughly yet impartially.”

Bunch won many North Carolina Press Association awards over the years. Last year, she won second place for her coverage of Edenton Town Council's handling of a controversy over the town’s Confederate monument.

Goodman had high praise for Bunch's skill as a reporter.

“As a reporter, Rebecca contributed much to the citizens of the area through thousands of stories, written with empathy and understanding for those she covered as well as for the readers she touched through the pages of the Herald during her four decades at the newspaper,” he said. 

Peter Williams, editor of the Perquimans Weekly, said Bunch’s focus on serving her community is what he’ll remember most.

“Over the 40-plus years I’ve been in journalism, I’ve run into reporters who saw whatever newspaper they were at as just a stepping-stone for something else,” he said. “Becky was not like that. She had no aspirations other than just doing her job for the people of Chowan County. And she did it very well.”

As news of Bunch’s death spread on Monday, a number of people who had known her a long time visited the Chowan Herald office, telling the newspaper’s staff it was hard to believe she was gone. 

“My heart is empty with Becky’s passing,” said Town Councilman Craig Miller, who said he shared a number of long conversations with Bunch at the Herald’s office. “I will always cherish our friendship over the years. I will miss our office chats; driving her to night meetings and social events to cover a story; and being a good listener for her when she felt overwhelmed at work.”

Miller described Bunch as a “wonderful caring person and an outstanding newspaper reporter who put her heart and soul into her work.”

“Chowan County has indeed lost someone very special this week,” he said. “She will be greatly missed.”

Through her skill with a pen, Bunch also became a tireless advocate for community causes.

“We all know her articles about community events inspired citizens and businesses to give their talent and treasure to important and meaningful organizations,” Knighton said. “Many of Edenton's nonprofits are stronger thanks to Becky's special style of reporting. Becky Bunch helped make Edenton a better place, for sure.”

Roger Coleman, director of the Edenton-Chowan Food Pantry, credits Bunch with helping to ensure the nonprofit’s needs stayed at the forefront of the community’s focus.

“Stories are still told how, not many years ago, shelves at the Edenton-Chowan Food Pantry were often bare. Rebecca would come to the rescue with a front-page plea for help and a photo of empty shelves,” he said. “A generous community would then respond and again there would be food to distribute.”

Coleman believes without Bunch’s help, “the food pantry would not be the resource for families in need that it is today.”

Peggy Vaughan worked closely with Bunch on a host of stories, including openings of art exhibits for the Chowan Arts Council and other events that have become annual traditions in Edenton.

“Becky was a dear person who asked so little of anybody but was always willing to do anything for anybody who asked her to do something.” she said. “She lived a very simple life but was content with what she had. Her generosity, her wonderful gift of writing and her genuine love of this community will be greatly missed.”

A visitation for Bunch will be held today from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Miller Funeral Home & Crematory at 735 Virginia Road, Edenton. A memorial service will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Edenton Baptist Church.