A hammock by the creek, cup of coffee and a book
At one minute to five o'clock Monday afternoon, Downtown/Community Development Manager Danielle Withrow turned in her key and at 5 p.m. she walked out of Town Hall as a brand new retiree.
She said some people save their last days of vacation just before retirement and get out of the office earlier.
"I wanted to work that last day, turn my key in at the final minute," Withrow said.
She's been counting the days — from 1,000— down to Monday when she retired after 14 years as the town's planner. Her title changed in April with the new job/classification study.
"But I changed it four times," Withrow quickly said of her retirement date moving from month to month.
Although the ride is just 13 miles taking 20 minutes, she is staying home "at least three days."
"I'm not coming to town on Tuesday, not Wednesday and not Thursday," the Hollis community resident said.
She will be back on Friday, July 4 volunteering with the Marine Corps League. They will display the American flags in downtown Forest City.
She also made a commitment to the League to help at the July 4 celebration in Rutherfordton.
When she knew she was retiring at the end of this fiscal year she began the overwhelming task in February of cleaing out her office and files.
"I want it to be in good shape for Amy (Bridges). That's how I operate," Withrow said of her replacement.
Among Withrow's most notable accomplishments has been expanding the town's Christmas activities.
"We've always had these lights, but adding the other things like the carriage rides, ice skating, Santa's House and shopping has been good," Withrow said.
She commends all the Christmas volunteers for the generous hours donated to the town.
"We have such good volunters, it runs itself. Every volunteer takes a piece of it," she said.
Along with the other Christmas events, there will probably be a winter market in the future that will be open with the other Christmas festivities.
When she began her job in Forest City, there were two horse and carriages rented for rides. Now there are seven horses.
She is equally as proud of how the carriage ride system works for visitors to eliminate long lines.
"You buy a ticket, go shopping and come back," she said.
But Withrow will not be in town for Christmas of 2014.
"No. Not this Christmas," she said, squinting her eyes when asked if you'll be in Forest City in December. "But I'll be fine. I'll be on a beach 800 miles away."
She's also proud of the Rutherford County Farmers Market move from U.S.74A in Spindale to the Florence Mill property.
"The small role I played in the farmers market has been one of my most exciting accomplishments," Withrow said.
She believes its growth is imminent and she will also volunteer at the market and at the indoor market.
But her eyes filled with tears as she expressed her grave disappointment that the Florence Mill Project did not happen on her watch.
"The fact that we didn't get the Florence Mill Project done causes me to be sad. It's not because we didn't try," Withrow said. "They did not tear it down. It will get done."
She said, however, the mill being in the downtown area is absolutely the best thing ever.
"We will be an unmatched downtown anywhere. Others have textile plants, but not many can say the mill is downtown where you can walk to everything," Withrow said. "Town Council hasn't given up."
The 1941 building, where Mount Airy developer Gene Rees plans to build seven condos, is still an ongoing project. Only one more condo buyer is needed and the project begins.
"Gene Rees is the dest developer around," she said. "When one more person signs the line, it will happen."
Last week, Withrow fielded two telephone calls and answered an e-mail from people interested in buying a condo.
"We have never lost the vision of what the mill can be," she said.
She also commended the Town of Forest City for being such a quality organization, the way it takes care of employees and how the Town provides all the resources needed to do jobs correctly.
She will miss her colleagues, the town folks, merchants and friends.
"I am not going to miss working more than 40 hours a week," she said. "I work 'til the job gets done and I probably worked 50 hours every week and during Christmas, it was an 80-hour week."
In the recent past Withrow witnessed the growth of downtown with the arrival of Forest City Pets, Puzzle Creek and The Twisted Pear.
"We've renovated almost 30 storefronts in 14 years and we will fill all the stores," Withrow said. "I've worked hard."
Withrow lives in Hollis on property that has been in the family since 1791. Capt. James Withrow went there from Cane Creek after the Revolutionary War. That has been home to Withrow during her careers, even when they took her to other cities or states.
Among Withrow's retirement gifts is a camping hammock. She tested the hammock last Thursday by taking part of the town staff out to her house.
"This is the epitome of retirement. Kick back and read a book in a hammock by the creek," she said.
She's has taken up art classes, attended an art camp and plans to take a writing class for traveling.
"I've got my ticket," Withrow said of her long vacation that begins in October.
The trip will be one of leisure. "I won't have to be racing around countries," she said. She is going to South East Asia, India and Burma.
But for a few days she plans to play in the creek.
"You never get too old to play in the creek," Withrow said.
Withrow said people looking for her will find her today at 8 a.m. down by the creekbank in her hammock and drinking coffee.
She decided last year the second half of her "bucket list" would be to hang out in the quiet places of life.
"I've seen the world and I could live anywhere in the world I wanted to, but I love this place.
"If you can't be happy in Hollis and in Rutherford County you can't be happy anywhere," she said.
"My 44 years career couldn't have a better place to wind down. I couldn't be more excited about this next chapter in the my life," she said. "I want to sit on my porch, play my banjo and grow tomatoes."