GREENSBORO — Cathy McDaniel had done the retirement thing before — packing up and thanking well-wishers before heading out the door.

But that retirement lasted a few years before she came back to her job as a Guilford County assistant clerk of court.

So you can imagine the question in some people’s minds Thursday as she packed up her belongings again in preparation for her second retirement.

“Making it real this time?” Greensboro lawyer Jerry Weston said with a laugh as he popped into the clerk’s office in the courthouse.

“Making it real,” she shot back with a smile.

“I’ve been here longer than anybody,” the 59-year-old Gibsonville native said after Weston left. “Longer than dirt. ” Thirty-seven years to be exact. That’s longer than the current county courthouse has been around.

Her career started in the old courthouse in November 1964 as one of two people typing out judgments, setting up new civil actions and handling other paperwork in the civil division. McDaniel was moved into the courtroom not long after getting the job. She served 20 years as a clerk in the criminal and civil courts before becoming a supervisor for 10 years.

Her ailing father — sick with congestive heart failure and diabetes — led her to retire the first time around in December 1994. She wanted to help care for him in a nursing home. He died about two years later.

Not long afterward, David Churchill came calling. Churchill was running for Guilford County clerk of court in 1998 and wanted McDaniel’s experience in the office if he won.

She had nothing planned after her father’s death and agreed.

He won the election, and she became his top assistant, second-in-command in an office with 127 employees in Greensboro and High Point.

“I told him I would stay three years,” she said. “It ended up being six years.”

They inherited a disorganized, inefficient office with low employee morale and a backlog of paperwork, among other reported problems. McDaniel said they’ve since turned that around.

The McLeansville woman decided to leave — again — to spend more time with her grandkids, 5-year-old Gillian and 8-year-old Jacob.

“This is final,” she said. “In my mind, today is final.”

As she finished out her last day Thursday, McDaniel reminisced about her courtroom experiences, including meeting her husband, Lt. Gary McDaniel of the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department.

He was a bailiff while she was a courtroom clerk. He asked her out in 1977, and they married the following year. Up until Thursday, both still worked at the courthouse, just three floors separating their offices.

Co-workers said she is known as the one with answers to all questions, someone so dedicated she didn’t even take time off while battling breast cancer in 1999.

“She’s been a good friend, and I don’t want her to go,” said a tearful Carolyn Brown, who will inherit McDaniel’s position.

McDaniel’s first retirement ceremony involved many speeches by judges and lawyers and friends, but she wanted a low-key affair this time around.

They gathered before Christmas to share hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.

“It’s like getting married again,” she said. “You don’t want all that hoopla.”

Contact Eric Collins at

373-7077, or ecollins

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