By Guinn Sweet
A long time ago, English poet, Thomas Moore wrote, “Oft in the stilly night, ere slumber’s chain has bound me, fond memory brings the light of other days around me.” At my age, fond memories are just about all that I can recall; they are memories which come in the daytime! It was the news of the naming of Libby Cluett as news editor of the Index which stirred my “fond” memories this week. I was reminded of my own beginnings at the Index almost twenty years ago. I was following the late, great Thelma Doss, following her retirement, in writing a commentary column. Gosh, that was in 1993! Can you believe it?
After several retirements from the teaching profession, and still dissatisfied with nothing to do except house work, I met Lou Warren and the Senior Center. She asked me to talk to the editor of the Mineral Wells Index to see if it would be possible for them to print a “Senior News” each week. She expected me to write such a column. In fact, she made me an appointment to meet with Jenny Cockerham; and it is she of whom I first speak in this column.
I will have an awfully hard time forgetting Jenny Cockerham. Our first meeting brought me great intimidation at the meeting with so prestigious a position-holder as “Managing Editor.” I envisioned a high-falutin’ lady, but I kept the appointment anyhow. As I first approached the door pointed out to me as her office, I am not sure of what I expected to see. However, when I walked through the door I saw, sitting there behind a loaded desk, the biggest smile I had ever seen. Her smile fit the rest of her body, she was a very large lady, physically. During the interview, she encouraged me to write just what I felt comfortable with, while fitting the nature of the senior center’s needs still accommodating my writing style. Her entire interview so fed my ego that it forced me to turn it (my ego) sideways to get it through the door as I left! I left her office convinced that I would be one of the best writers that the Index ever had … and that I had a new friend.
Sometimes Jenny was funny, sometimes she was downright audacious. There were other times when she expressed outrage for some of the social ills that we both saw as overcoming our world. Her dislike and criticism were both fair and honest, while also seeing the humor in life. She was a professional writer, a fair “boss,” a wise advisor and a gentle critic. Our friendship as well as our professional relationship had basis in intelligence and sensitivity.
Jenny was destined to live only a comparatively few months after we began sharing the newspaper writing. She made it bearable by telling me stories of my predecessor, Thelma Doss, now retired. Without demanding any particular level of performance, she wisely outlined what was good and what was not so good in the writing life of a columnist. She did not allow me to be ONLY a reporter for the Senior Center. She asked permission from Lou Warren, center director, to allow me to expand, or rather to add, to my news column, other areas of commentary, including humor, criticism and other things to entertain.
You ask why I am writing this “eulogy to Jenny” so many years later? I tell you in one short sentence. We have a new FEMALE editor at the Index. I know, I know, the local news is local news and anybody can do it well … and she has shown that she is a skilled interviewer and writer. She has local as well as national news items in her work. She is sufficiently able to be both detached while “reporting the facts, ma’am,” and thoughtful [news] editor of the Mineral Wells Index, and she has established herself over an appreciable length of time as one who will stick to the job assigned and outdo some others who have proved less able/willing to do the jobs assigned, and make them factual, interesting and informative.
In addition, I have told her all the above in the hope and expectation that she will be of help to me in my column writing, by correction of my spelling and word usage; and also her thinking of attention-getting headline statements or titles. I know that she will be happy to do that. Huh? You will, Libby, Huh? Right? Right!!