Sometimes inspiration comes from the unlikeliest place. For the TNT newsroom, it came three months ago in the form of 99-year-old Elizabeth Poinsett.
Columnist Dorothy Wilhelm asked in November to bring her friend in for a tour. Poinsett was a lifelong Lakewood resident, teacher, artist and historian and had always wanted to see the newsroom.
“She is at the point in life where she doesn’t want to postpone important things,” Wilhelm wrote, “and she definitely counts this as one of the things she wishes to accomplish.”
We arranged a visit.
From the outset, Poinsett clearly wasn’t here simply to check us off her bucket list. She had taken the TNT for 60 years and never understood how we could create an entire newspaper in one day. It seemed like magic to her. She wanted to know how it worked.
She attended our news meeting, hanging on every word as editors pitched their stories. Afterward, the questions began. How many people wrote the stories? When did they finish them? How did we use computers to get it all done?
Next, she sat with page designer Pat McCoid, watching as he pulled each photo and story file onto his computer screen. The headlines would come later, he explained, and then he would send the pages to the press.
Poinsett turned to me. She could see the press? Of course. Elizabeth marched her walker down the long hallway toward the viewing window overlooking the press.
She giggled when she got there and found the press running. Look at that. How did the press plates work? Where did the ink go in? How long did it take to print the papers?
Finally, Poinsett asked to chat with columnist Kathleen Merryman and reporter C.R. Roberts.
“She was fascinated with what she’d seen here,” Merryman said. “There are so many different types of people, so many skill sets, so many deadlines and goals, all wrapped into the paper she was delighted to have delivered every morning.”
Poinsett was amazingly sharp and seemingly healthy. That’s why we were shocked to learn last week that she had died.
On Feb. 17, her 100th birthday, Poinsett fell and broke her hip, according to Ken Upton, an elder at Lakewood’s Little Church on the Prairie. The resulting surgery was too much for her. She died Monday.
But not before the party.
The picture (above) was taken at her church two weeks ago today. According to the Suburban Times: “The Fellowship Hall was gaily decorated with an Hawaiian theme reminiscent of her love of music of the Islands where she and her late husband, Ray, spent many vacations. One hundred colorful Mylar balloons clung to the ceiling while the very young and old alike individually greeted Elizabeth and presented cards to this beloved member of the church and community.” They ate cake, drank punch and serenaded her with “Tiny Bubbles” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”
Talk about living one’s life right up to the end.
Poinsett saw magic all around her. With childlike curiosity, even at 99, she had a lot left to learn.
It’s easy for cynical journalists to get caught up in the daily grind, the looming deadlines, and the seriousness of the news business. For one afternoon last November, Poinsett made us remember that what we do is a bit magical.
But those of us who met her believe she was the one with the real magic.
CHANGES COMING TO SUNDAY SOUNDLIFE
Today marks the final column for Randy Cohen, who writes “On Ethics.” Cohen is leaving for a public radio gig. This also will be the last Sunday for Larry Meeks, who writes “Ethnically Speaking.”
We are replacing the syndicated columns with local offerings. The first was Craig Hill’s new fitness column, which already is popular with readers. Next Sunday, we will begin running “Busy Mama,” a column by Lisa Pemberton, education reporter, Eatonville resident and mother of three small children.
“Lisa’s column is about the real-life adventures of a South Sound mom who struggles to find balance,” said SoundLife team leader Dusti Demarest. “It’s a forum where she can share information she’s learned, either from experts, from experience, or through the masses of information available to her as a journalist.”
We are replacing Dr. Paul Donahue’s “To Your Health” column with a similar column by Dr. Mitchell Hecht.
We also ran our final column from The Amish Cook in Wednesday’s food section. While many enjoyed Lovina Eicher’s folksy writing, her recipes far too frequently contained errors or were repeats from previous columns. Both were frustrating to us and to readers. We will use that space for more food stories and recipes.
Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434