Aug. 31, 2010 — I am not sure how many readers know that in some newspaper markets new reporters start out in the sports statistics department or writing obituaries. Neither are glamorous Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporting assignments, but they are two of the mostly widely read sections of any newspaper.
Even the least interested sports fan takes a brief look at how their team is fairing against the rest of the league, especially as the playoff come closer.
And, when it comes to obituaries, people want to see if anyone they know has passed. I know the older one gets the more important the vital statistics page becomes. I often go online and check out my hometown paper to see if people I remember are still with us.
I also read obituaries because I often learn fascinating things about the deceased person I didn’t know when they were living. Either they were too shy to brag on themselves or their loved one who takes time to write the last story perceives them differently.
Recently, I was sent an obituary that was written up in the San Francisco Chronicle about a 97-year-old woman named Paula Adam Tennant. I searched the paper’s archives and did not find the name. Therefore, I have to assume her story of her time in Lassen County has not been recorded with our paper.
According to her obituary at one time she was the county’s district attorney in the mid 1950s. The obituary is lengthy with a list of her contributions to the not only the California Youth Authority but also to the U.S. Board of Parole, appointed by President Richard Nixon and then at age 70 to the U.S. Parole Commission by President Ronald Reagan.
The notice in the paper had a wonderful quote about her. “In the mid 1950’s when she served as district attorney in Lassen County (Susanville), a friend commented, ‘Compared to the state and federal government jobs, this may seem insignificant, but for a town like Susanville it was an amazing feat. I recall that even the judges (male) allowed the other attorneys to treat her with considerable disrespect to a degree that would now be a huge federal lawsuit. She ignored them, did her homework and clobbered them in court most of the time.’”
That’s my kind of lady.
The Lassen County Times has an obituary recently for Bill McIntosh, who was the county’s first director of public works and served for 41 years. I learned he headed development of the County Route Marker Program adopted nationally in 1967.
Because of his leadership, Lassen County received the first number, “A-1,” for the Eagle Lake Road, a national award winner for its design and the only county road selected for the 1984 Olympic Torch relay. In 2000, A-1 was officially proclaimed the “William D. McIntosh Highway.”
Now that’s dedication. It also explains how Lassen County has a road called A-1.
It all becomes trivia at some point, but to those who lost these loved ones, it is part of the story of a life, and I find it fascinating. We all have a story to tell — a place we have been, a person we have met, a life we have touched, a difference we have made — unfortunately that story may not be told until our death.
I wonder what stories my children will tell because if God is willing, they will be the ones writing my obituary. I hope I have left a legacy or a funny antidote.
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