KERRY HUBARTT COLUMN: “By the way,” Betty Stein, your many friends are richer for having known you
Today is Betty Stein’s 102nd birthday. So here is my birthday card to her.
Betty is best known to News-Sentinel readers for her columns that appeared in the newspaper beginning in 1982, the year I became sports editor. But she became much more special to me when I became editor of the paper in 2007, because along with that responsibility came the distinct pleasures of editing her columns and interacting with her on a regular basis.
It was a delight and a privilege to read her “By the Way” columns, and she always seemed to appreciate my editing, especially, she said, the headlines I wrote for them. That was a lot of fun for me, because the humor and cleverness in her writing provided opportunities for catchy headlines that I hoped would lure readers to see what she was writing about.
But, really, my headlines weren’t the key. It was Betty’s name and picture that accompanied her columns were the only things necessary to let her followers know another treat was in store on that particular Tuesday in The News-Sentinel. I knew from experience her popularity, because on more than one occasion when, for one reason or another, the publication of her column got delayed a day or so, I would inevitably receive phone calls from concerned fans of Betty’s writing who wanted to know why her column wasn’t in the paper the day they expected it.
Betty considered the people who read her columns to be her friends. A mainstay of our community, this remarkable woman has made many friends through her long life as a teacher, a member of commissions and boards, president of the Allen County Public Library and supporter of the city’s fine arts. But she added many more friends through her writings, which often solicited feedback from her readers that she used in her columns.
In the last column she wrote for the paper on Sept. 28, she said, “I have loved hearing from you, and I’ve loved the times when you spoke wherever and whenever we were out together in the same spot. We’ve ‘talked’ books and theatre and pussy cats and presidents of the United States and the world of education, among other topics. You’ve taken my quizzes and let me know your scores. You have been truly wonderful and supportive, and I have been very grateful.”
Friday was a special day for Betty — it was a book-signing at The Bookmark book store on North Anthony Boulevard, where she and my long-time colleague at The News-Sentinel, Blake Sebring, greeted the public with books they have written. Blake helped Betty sort through more than 2,000 of her News-Sentinel columns this fall, collecting some of the best into a book, “By The Way, the Columns of Betty Stein,” published on Amazon.
I have no doubt read those columns myself when they were published in The News-Sentinel, but purchasing a copy of her book is a gift to me as to the rest of the community in Fort Wayne and Allen County that will serve as a tribute to someone who has always given back to us all through her many years.
As she wrote at the conclusion of her final column, “I thank you for all these years of togetherness. We have become friends – and I am far richer because of that. Thank you very much.”
Thank you, Betty and happy birthday. We’re all richer for knowing you.
Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.