http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080419/OPINION02/804190321Missing store clerk lights up the room and life
Andrew Tutino / Tompkins Journal
You know Bethanie Dougherty, even if you don't know her personally.
By now you know who Dougherty is because she is missing - at least law enforcement, her family and friends hope you do. She was last seen on the night of April 1. Cops, her family and residents from her hometown in Killawog, about 25 miles from Ithaca, have searched all over for her. They can't find her, and it doesn't look like she intended to leave that night.
When Dougherty wasn't missing, she could be found most days at the Xtra Mart across the street from NYSEG here in Tompkins County. Her co-workers say she was a pleasure to work with and she talked to every customer. Even if you don't know her by name, you know the type.
She's the friendly clerk at the convenience store. She probably sees you more than some members of your family do. Daily, she cashes you out for cigarettes, coffee and overpriced gas. On the good days, when you are in a good mood, you let her engage you in conversation because that's the type of person she is, friends say. On the bad days, when that overpriced gas gets you angry, you scan your debit card and on your way you go. The opportunity to meet one of the people who make this world a special place is lost because of a complicated commodities market.
Dougherty is training to be a manager at the Xtra Mart, where she's worked since November. She works the early shift, where the arrival and departure of customers is part of the daily real-world grind. The convenience store - a community meeting place - is the bricks-and-mortar equivalent of the social networking Web sites we spend too much time on. It's MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn all rolled up in one - and you can even get a good cup of coffee.
It was at Xtra Mart where Dougherty reconnected with many people who had lost touch with her. Heather Williams, a teacher and softball coach in Dryden, first met Dougherty about a decade ago through a bowling league at Marathon Lanes. Williams became reacquainted with Dougherty at the convenience store. “It is nice to be able to pop in and see her,” she said.
Dougherty's laughs are loud and hugs are strong, Williams said. Dougherty often talks about her three children, whom she loves with all her heart.
The “very kind, very vivacious” convenience store clerk is the type of person you meet once and don't forget. When Williams sent an e-mail to friends about the disappearance, one woman who had not seen Dougherty in years called to say she remembered the exact time and place she first met her. She even remembered what Dougherty was wearing. “She makes a strong impression on people,” Williams said. “She is very full of life.”
We all have a friend or two like Dougherty in our address book. She is “game” for anything, Williams said. Once, at a bowling tournament, Dougherty ended up wearing a tiara and sash following a chain of events. For some, that wouldn't work. For Dougherty, it did. “She pulled it off,” Williams said. “It was perfectly natural for her to wear a tiara and sash at a bowling tournament.”
Peter Schug also stopped in the convenience store to see Dougherty on occasion. “She is a nice, outgoing person. It is a good job for her,” Schug said. He, too, first met Dougherty through a bowling league and enjoyed catching up on life with her when he found out she was working at the store.
“She is just a nice, pleasant person to be around,” Schug said. “She is a bubbly person and lights up the room when she walks in.”
And even when missing, she still lights up the room. When you walk into the Xtra Mart today, you still buy your coffee, your cigarettes and your overpriced gas.
You walk up to counter to scan your debit card. But Dougherty isn't there. In her place is a missing person flier with her picture on it.
You realize she's gone.
Editor's note: If you have information about Bethanie “Buffy” Dougherty, call the Broome County Sheriff's Office at 778-1196.