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Environmental steward retires
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Connie Waller thought she was doing everything right. She ate a diet loaded with organic vegetables, exercised regularly and was productive at work. Turns out she was a little too productive.

"I would have thought I was the last person to ever have a heart attack," said Waller, who suffered a stress-related heart attack in June. "I thought I wasn't doing anything different, but I had so much on my plate. We're a society that over-exerts itself."

The stress-related heart attack, which is also known as broken-heart syndrome, led Waller to a lot of introspection. She eventually decided to retire from her position as executive director of Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful.

"Like 99.9 percent of job lovers, I never would have left without a real good wakeup call," said Waller, who also overcame cancer five years ago.

After years of service, helping clean up and green up the county she's grown to love, Waller is taking a bit of time to focus on herself. She's learning the guitar, taking yoga classes, taking doctor-prescribed naps and most importantly, spending time with her grandchildren.

During her three-month leave, she was able to spend time in Cleveland, Ga. and see the birth of her fourth grandchild, True.

"I've found my calling, being ‘Nonni.' I was there for the first three weeks of her life, now I can't stand to be away," Waller said, noting that she's spent each of the last three weekends in Cleveland.

This weekend, True will be visiting her, as Waller is set to be honored for her 20-plus years of service to the county with a ceremony at 3 p.m. today on the third floor of the Newton County Administration Building, 1113 Usher St. She received recognition for her service from Keep Georgia Beautiful earlier this week.

Someone once told Waller she was the most well-connected person in Newton County. Those connections were built during a career promoting recycling and litter reduction. Her love for her community also led her to volunteer with organization like the Covington Y, Habitat for Humanity, the Satsuki Garden Club and the First United Methodist Church.

"Connie represents the best example of what Newton County should be, astute, hard working, the utmost professional, service oriented, articulate, kind, and willing to share her time, talents and knowledge for the good of all," said good friend Sheri Roberts.

One of Waller's next goals is to travel. She and her husband, David, are both outdoor enthusiasts. The couple is planning to travel to Machu Picchu, an Incan site in Peru.

Wherever Waller goes, she'll be sure to take it a little easier, something that doesn't always come natural for Type A personalities. To keep her on track, she's taken this saying to heart: "It's better to be five minutes late in this life, than 50 years early to the next."

Waller said she will still be involved in the community and will jump back into volunteering soon. She couldn't stand to be away from the hundreds of close friends she's made through the years, because they compose the memories she'll cherish for the rest of her life.