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Stella Anderson Trapp, who published and edited The Transylvania Times for more than 30 years and loved Transylvania County with all her heart, died Thursday, Dec. 17, at Tore’s Home in Brevard.
Born Stella Williams Anderson on Aug. 1, 1936, in Leaksville, N.C., she was the daughter of Edward Moore Anderson and Stella Williams Anderson, who ran a small group of newspapers and radio stations in western North Carolina. She was raised in the small North Carolina mountain town of West Jefferson and spent many of her childhood summers at the Williams family home in Fairview, where she forged lifelong relationships with her numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. After graduating from Beaver Creek High School in West Jefferson, she went on to earn her degree in radio, television and motion pictures (RTVMP) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she met her future husband, Donald Marion Trapp.
In her early 20s, she was badly injured in a car accident and reacted with the resilient attitude and love of discovery that she would retain her entire life. Needing an operation on her leg, she found a surgeon in England and moved to London to live with a friend, turning her misfortune into an adventure. She adored England and seriously considered staying, but, a year later, during a return visit home to see her mother, Don proposed to her, and she accepted. Although she left England behind, she took with her a lifelong love of hot tea; she was particularly fond of Twining’s English Breakfast with lemon and sugar.
Stella and Don married and had two children, Leigh and Sean. Don’s work in public radio took the family to Washington, D.C., and then back to Chapel Hill, during which time Stella devoted herself to being an extraordinary wife and mother. She was an exceptional cook, and on any given day you could find her preparing humble dishes like SOS (creamed chipped beef on toast – one of Don’s favorites), or the latest recipes she had discovered in a culinary magazine (Chicken Cherries Jubilee and Baked Alaska were family staples.) She was a master of soups, made a remarkable beef stew and her mashed potatoes were so good that they became the birthday breakfast of choice in the Trapp household.
In Chapel Hill, she developed a fascination with wildflowers, became an active volunteer at the N.C. Botanical Garden, and took her children on hunts for trillium, Indian paint brush and pink lady slipper. She also had a lifelong love of arts and crafts, and was a skilled seamstress and knitter – trips to the Piece Goods store were a regular occurrence. During their time in Washington, she spent days in the Smithsonian museums with her children and eagerly shared her love of art, literature, music and theater with them. Her time in Washington also nurtured her keen interest in politics, which she had inherited from her mother, and which served her well in her future career as a newspaper publisher.
In the late ‘70s, the family left Chapel Hill and moved to Brevard, where Stella took over the helm of The Transylvania Times. A passionate advocate for journalism, she believed newspapers were vital for encouraging public discourse and were a critical tool for fostering understanding and building consensus within a community.
For more than 30 years she ran The Transylvania Times with an intensely local focus. In an era before the Internet, she believed one of the most important functions of a community paper was to publish pictures of children, because it helped build their self-esteem (and also sold extra papers to parents and grandparents). Her weekly column, Around Transylvania, highlighted stories of interest about the residents of Transylvania County, whom she loved dearly. Her infamous Bouquets and Thorns in the editorial section would either praise good deeds or skewer the subjects of her ire.
As a publisher, she had a reputation for being tough, but also fair. She was widely respected in the community, even by those with whom she disagreed. She was a proud Democrat and a champion of progressive politics – particularly on issues of equal rights and environmental protections – but she always took time to hear opposing views. She had an open door policy at The Transylvania Times – no matter your financial status, politics, religion, gender or race, she’d make time for you as long as it wasn’t on press day.
She never hesitated to take a stand on something she believed in, no matter how big or small. As a lifelong lover of animals, especially cats, she was outraged at the idea of euthanizing pets, and went so far as to publish before-and-after pictures of an animal being put down to shock people into action. She also began publishing free pictures of animals available for adoption, a tradition that continues to this day.
Her repeated demands in the editorial pages that the city needed public restrooms became legendary, and led to an extensive collection of miniature outhouses that were given to her by her readers and were proudly displayed at The Transylvania Times. One year, John Taylor even made an outhouse derby car to race on Jailhouse Hill in her honor.
She loved Transyl-vania County and western North Carolina, and committed her time, financial resources and editorial pages to supporting countless local initiatives. She was a passionate advocate for the restoration and preservation of local historical sites, such as Silvermont Mansion and the Allison Deaver House; she championed the efforts of the Heart of Brevard and Chamber of Commerce to ensure the economic success of the community; she supported the early efforts to clean up the French Broad River; she was instrumental in the establishment of the county schools’ science fair; and she was a true believer in and supporter of the efforts of the Center for Dialogue.
The number of boards and committees she served on are too many to name, and through it all, she continued to be an extraordinary mother, preparing family meals daily and attending every school event in which her children participated. She won countless awards for her contributions to the community, including: the Esther Wesley Award for lifetime contributions to the Chamber of Commerce; the AAUW’s Women Who Make A Difference award; the N.C. Main Street Champion award for her contributions to the success of Brevard’s downtown Heart of Brevard district; the Center for Dialogue’s Architects of a Peaceful Community award; and the state’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, for her contributions to the citizens of Transylvania County as the editor and publisher of The Transylvania Times.
She was a devoted member of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, serving as both a member of the vestry, a chalice bearer and a lay reader. Her faith was vital to her throughout her life, and informed her belief in the fundamental goodness of people and the power of love. She truly cherished the community at St. Philip’s – it was her spiritual home.
Stella was also a lifelong supporter of local artisans, crafters and musicians. She and Don dearly loved the Brevard Music Center and rarely missed a performance. A walk through her home or office would reveal walls and shelves filled with the works of local artists she knew and loved: paintings by Tim Murray, handmade mugs by Dwight Pigman, multi-media works by Joe Bruneau and many more.
She loved to travel, and, although work didn’t allow her to do so often, when she traveled, she always had an adventure. Even late in life, she didn’t think twice about using a jacket for a pillow and spending the night in a ferry station, waiting for the morning boat. Europe and the British Isles were her favorite destinations, and she never over-planned, always preferring the magic of discovering the unexpected.
She also loved holidays, and never missed an opportunity to decorate the office or her home for the season. For Stella, all holidays were an excuse to give thoughtful, personally meaningful gifts to the people she loved. Christmas was probably her favorite; she loved throwing staff Christmas parties at work, and cherished spending time with her family. Halloween ran a close second; the newspaper staff always dressed in costume, and she and Don hosted the Great Talking Pumpkin at their home for decades. During Easter, friends were invited to join her egg decorating parties, where traditional methods, such as onion skin dying, met with sophisticated masking and wax relief techniques. She also loved Groundhog’s Day; she and Don sent out cards every year and threw wonderful Goundhog’s Day parties. And her favorite minor holiday was April Fool’s Day; she had strong sense of mischief and loved to play pranks. She eagerly looked forward to calendar years when press day landed on April 1; she filled the entire front page of The Transylvania Times with made-up stories.
Although Stella was unable to keep working in her later years, she never lost her resilient attitude and strength of spirit. She was grateful for the extraordinary care she received at Tore’s Home, and, although her adventures became smaller in scope, she cherished them all the same. Nothing gave her more pleasure than to sneak a beer in a travel mug and be pushed in her wheelchair out Sugarloaf Road, where she could see the mountains that she loved so much, and spend time with her family, and visit with the people who stopped their cars to say hello.
As much as Stella loved Brevard, Transylvania, and the mountains of western North Carolina, more than anything, she loved people. She wanted to be with them, and to hear their stories, and to share those stories in her newspaper. She loved her husband, her children and her grandson unconditionally, and gave them everything she had to give. She will be missed.
Stella is survived by her daughter, Leigh Trapp; her son, Sean Trapp, and his wife, Hesper Dickson; and her grandson, Tyler Chase Wiesner.
Due to COVID-19, there are no funeral services planned at this time.
Stella had many charities that she supported throughout her lifetime. However, during these challenging financial times, she would have encouraged everyone to support local families in need. If you are able to do so, please make a contribution in her memory to Sharing House at www.sharinghouse.org, PO Box 958, Brevard, NC 28712.
To leave a condolence for the family, visit “obituaries” at
http://www.moore-fh.com. Moore-Blanchard Funerals & Cremations is honored to have served the family.
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