BETTY STEIN: Going back to where it started — two very important women

This is not what the column was going to be about. I’ve been working on a quiz — based on colors — and I’ve read some pretty good books. But’s Blake Sebring was here to visit a couple of days ago and while we were talking, he said, “You’ve got to write about that!”

I explained to him that my very first column for the News-Sentinel was about Fort Wayne women. The executive editor had come to Memorial Park Middle School to see about enrolling his daughter there, and I was the administrator talking with him. We hit it off and had a great time, and he ended up by urging me to write a column. I accepted his invitation.

After a lot of consideration, I decided to write about two Fort Wayne women — women whose influence should never be forgotten. That was over thirty years ago. He liked the column and asked me to keep on writing which, as you know, I did.

The two women were Margaret Ann Keegan and Clara Yarnelle. The two women in completely different ways had a tremendous impact on Fort Wayne. Margaret Ann helped consolidate many activities into a Community Chest which, over the years, has changed its name many times and is currently the United Way. Every time I walked into the Y.W.C.A., I thought about Mrs. Yarnelle, whose vision made it a viable center for women. Located on West Wayne Street right next to the Allen County Public Library, it was a center for physical activity (its pool is where I learned to swim), meetings, a lovely tea room, and a home for young women. And with all her other activities, including being active in the various PTAS, as her children progressed through schools, her church, and our community, she remained a delightful, admirable, approachable woman.

Margaret Ann knew what she wanted and what was needed. That’s why she thought the Community Chest should be established. Her interests ranged far and wide. The Fort Wayne Museum of Art has an award named for Margaret Ann. And I could fill columns with her doings. But let me just give you an example of how she worked.

One day, I had a telephone call from her. We had just recently moved back to Fort Wayne from Dallas, and Margaret Ann’s greeting to me was “You’ve been back long enough doing nothing, so I have a job for you.” The job was teaching a class of volunteers at the Cancer Society how to be good social workers. (My undergraduate degree is in social work.) There was no use saying I had a little boy who needed a lot of attention or any other excuse. Margaret Ann Keegan had decided this was necessary and so it was to be. Of course, I said, “Okay.” And that’s the way it was.

There are no buildings named for them. They both lived in Swinney Court but there are no statues celebrating their lives. Fort Wayne has been blessed over the years by the lives of several women, all of whom should be on the list of those who have enriched our lives and ways of living. Let’s be sure these two names are on that list.

Okay, Blake?

Betty Stein is a resident of Fort Wayne