NOT A HUMOR COLUMN. JUST THE PASSING OF ANOTHER SPECIAL LADY

PAPER TIGER
Betty Weesner had the same job for almost 60 years and never got a promotion. She would have complained to the boss, but she was the boss—both the editor and the publisher of The Republican, the oldest newspaper in Hendricks County. One hundred seventy years old to be exact. Betty always liked to be exact.
Betty passed away last week at the age of 90.
Since 1890, The Republican has had only three editors. When I reached their office to send my condolences, her long-time assistant Betty Bartley said, “Yeah, some newspapers have that many editors in a year.”
Betty Weesner started her career at The Republican in the late ’30s—when she was 10—writing school news. The editor was a crusty old journalist who also happened to be her father. The publisher was a crusty old journalist, too. (Also her father.) “My dad paid me a dollar a week.  I was in it for the money,” she once kidded me.
In the 1950s, she graduated from the IU School of Journalism (rare for a woman at the time) and took over for her dad in the mid ’60s. The tiny storefront on Main Street in Danville has housed the newspaper for more than a century, having moved from a couple of other locations over the years. During Betty’s 60-year career as editor, she didn’t miss a single issue, even battling snowstorms to make her deadlines. “People love their local paper,” she said. “When we mess up, we hear about it.”
The old building is chock-full of, well, everything, but mostly stacks of newspapers going back decades. There’s also an old linotype machine and wood type from the Civil War.  Up until just a few years ago, the paper was laid out the old-fashioned way by cutting and pasting news copy onto story boards, then sending the proofs off to the printer. They went digital about five years ago.
Betty’s view of what was worthwhile for her publication echoed her father’s philosophy. He was once asked why Lindbergh’s crossing of the Atlantic was not reported in The Republican back in 1927. “Because Lindbergh was not from Hendricks County,” said the late Edward J. Weesner. Betty had a more lax policy. “If you want to get in The Republican you have to either be born in Hendricks County, live in Hendricks County, work in Hendricks County or get in trouble in Hendricks County.” I once asked her to print my humor column each week and she pretty much told me that unless I was thrown in the local pokey, she couldn’t justify putting my name in her newspaper.
Betty believed in local newspapers. “They confirm the gossip you’ve heard all week,” she once told me. She was an influential force in the community for decades and still covered town council news until just a few years ago. Even from her nursing home the last few months, she read each issue, occasionally pointing out a typo, but she was more apt to praise her tiny but loyal staff for their hard work.
In 2007, I interviewed Betty for my TV segment. The story earned an Emmy award.  I went to Danville to tell her about the honor, but she said she still couldn’t mention me in her weekly Edition.“But it’s only noon,” she told me. “Plenty of time for you to still get arrested.”

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INSULT OF HEIGHT

 

Most people stop growing in their late teens or early 20s. I was stunned the other day to learn that President Obama’s annual physical indicated he had grown over an inch since taking office. His doctor said there was no explanation for this. The Democrats said it was Obamacare.
Of course, seniors do not usually get taller. Just the opposite. One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons is an elderly woman tracking her husband’s height with pencil marks on the inside of a closet door, just like our parents did when we were kids. Sadly, the lines on the door suggest the man had gradually been getting shorter.
Recently I went for a medical procedure that required a brain scan. A nurse called the next day to say that after examining my head for 15 minutes, they were pleased to report they didn’t find anything. I guess this was good news, but they need to find a better way of presenting that information.
While I was there, I was also weighed and had my height measured. Now, my father was six feet tall and my mother was barely five, so I always calculated I was right in the middle, at 5′ 10″. (You can see now why I didn’t do well in math.) For almost 55 years, on my driver’s license, my passport and all medical questionnaires, I listed myself as 5′ 10″. It not only made me feel tall, but it made me seem trim according to the weight chart. If I gained a few pounds, I just told myself I was taller. I found this easier than cutting back on pie.
The nurse reviewed the stats:  “Blood pressure, 123 over 80; height 5′ 8”, and weight 170. Very good, Mr. Wolfsie. Please step over here and…
“Whoa!  How tall did you say I was?”
“That would be 5 feet, 8 inches—in your socks, which adds a little, of course.”
“Look, first of all, I’m 5′ 10″. Okay, maybe 5′ 9 1/2″, and second of all, these are expensive nylon socks, and very thin.”
“Whatever you say, Mr. Wolfsie. Please grab one of the blue gowns off that hook on the door…if you can reach it.”
That night when I got home, I asked my wife how tall she thought I was. “Well, let’s see, when I’m in heels, I’m taller than you, and I’m 5′ 7″, so I guess I’d say you are 5′ 8″. And you’re just about as adorable as can be.” 
“But when we got married, I told you I was 5′ 10”. You should have said something,
“I figured you just rounded it up from 5′ 7.” You did the same thing with your math SATs. By the way, I also didn’t believe that 170 number you threw at me—not by a long shot.
“You think I lied about my weight?”
“Oh, I thought that was your IQ you were bragging about.”
The bottom line is I have to admit either I’m a pathological liar and need some expensive counseling or I am—and this is tough to admit—shrinking. It’s going to depend on which one is covered by Medicare.

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