laurey masterton changed my mind

Laurey Masterton at her home near Asheville.

*** UPDATE 18 Feb, 2014: Laurey’s sister has reported via Facebook that Laurey passed away early this morning. Keep her and her family in your thoughts. ***
*** Apologies for the initial misspelling of Laurey’s last name. Sorry for broken links as a result of the correction. ***
*** Remember that there are real people at the center of this situation, and they are dealing with real loss. Media attention can be very overwhelming. Please pay your tributes carefully. ***

On a troubling day last September a colleague and I had an argument in Laurey Masterton’s front yard. All around us birds were chirping and bees were buzzing.

No, really. Bees were actually buzzing. We were there, in fact, to photograph Laurey tending her bees. But she was running late, and I took the spare moment as an opportunity to start a fight about Asheville’s media. Last fall was a hard time to be a journalist here, and I was sick of it. I wanted to rant about how we were all just reinforcing our own narcissism, how nothing we covered was real, how our journalism had become a disguise for marketing — not for Asheville’s products, but for its egos.

Things were getting heated when Laurey drove up. I filed the argument under “To Be Continued” and rolled my eyes at her “Don’t Postpone Joy” bumper sticker, determined to remain unimpressed.

But one of Laurey Masterton’s super powers is the ability to shatter whatever self-serving illusions you’re trying to maintain. If you’ve met her, you know what I’m talking about. As soon as we shook hands I instantly felt ashamed of my cynicism, and uncomfortable with her staggering enthusiasm for life: The thing about Laurey is that she makes you expect a little more from yourself.

And over her shoulder, my colleague’s eyes were saying, “I told you so.”

Laurey Masterton at her home near Asheville.

Laurey seemed to understand that she’d met someone who might have a tendency to postpone joy. I imagine she gets that reaction a lot. So many people in Asheville are so tired of hearing the media blather on about how great we all are that, when you meet someone who’s actually genuine and kind, the first thing you feel is shame for forgetting people like Laurey really do exist.

I came away from our shoot wondering why I’d started that fight, when the solution was obvious: If you want things to be better, make them better.

This morning I read that Laurey’s health is rapidly declining. The media circus is in effect. So I’m here to tell you, as someone who worked in the thick of Asheville’s self-aggrandizing hype, that Laurey Masterton is the real deal. I only spent an hour with her, and I can’t claim to enumerate all her good works. But she changed my mind about things during a really rough time. And she makes this whole town expect a little more from itself.

Laurey Masterton at her home near Asheville.

Published by

Max Cooper

Max Cooper is a photographer based in Asheville, NC. Appearing in both local and national markets, his art and documentary photography has garnered widespread praise and his editorial work has been recognized with awards from the National Newspaper Association and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. He lives on the edge of town with his miraculous son, incredibly patient wife and an ungrateful cat.


  1. This is perfect. Thank you for posting. I was raised in Asheville (Arden) and can’t even wrap my mind about all that is going on there but I love that she changed your mind.

  2. Max, I’ve enjoyed meeting you a couple times this past year, and I was led to this through an FB friend’s page. Lovely and true. And I too get caught up in feeling cynical about many things, only to be jolted into wonder on a very regular basis by my very own survivorship (breast cancer), parenthood, the beauty of WNC and its people, etc. Hope you’re well and I join you in mourning the loss of this great lady.

  3. …and the vibrations of Laurey’s life-well-lived keep rippling outward. Thank you for re-posting this.

  4. I, too, was forwarded to your blog through a friend on Facebook. I met Laurey in Atlanta when she gave a lecture on her new book back in October. There were only six of us attending so it was very intimate.
    Throughout the two hours she spoke on beekeeping, sharing her stories of humorous charms and, provided tastings on Honey varietals. She briefly mentioned she was a survivor of cancer but remained on the subject at hand.
    Laurey’s sister, Heather was with her and was thrilled I had brought their Mother’s book “Off My Toes” (stories of Blueberry Hill Farm). Heather told me she didn’t know anyone who still had the book. So that pleased me.
    Laurey and Heather’s positive energy and natural enthusiasm became addictive among the small group. Without a doubt, she left a lasting impression on us that night.
    Reading all the entries to her Facebook page, spoke volumes to the lasting impression she has left as her legacy.
    I adore your photographs of Laurey.

  5. Such a tribute Max. I know Laurey is looking down smiling for the influence she had on you. You are so talented. Thank you for this article.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. ‘Tis truly a gift to meet a person whom has the ability to change a person’s heart. Laurey seemed to be that for a LOT of folks. I think she will continue to be that…it is her legacy. What an amazing legacy to have created!

    Sharing the sadness…”joy comes in the morning”…however long the night seems.

  7. I worked for Laurey. So do a lot of my friends. She was an amazing woman! I love the way you said it “she makes the whole town expect a little more from itself”. SO TRUE!!!!!!