|By Bob Weaver 2002|
Yesterday at Mary Ann Barrow's memorial
service I read from one of her favorite poems, Thanatopsis -
lie down with patriarchs of the infant world - with kings, the powerful of the
earth - the wise, the good, fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past, all in one
mighty sepulchre ... By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave, like one
who wraps the drapery of his couch about him, and lies down to pleasant
It was fitting poetry for an old newspaper woman, forty years
It would be hard to imagine the lines of type she composed in all those
years, read and forgotten by thousands.
She had been indecisive about going to the writer's group one Friday
evening in early fall. I asked her to make up her mind. "O.K., come and get
me," she said. Taking my topless Geo Tracker, I started to Jeanne Wilson's
house, tucking-in Mary Ann with a large sleeping bag and turning up the
heater, only her face exposed. "This will start rumors, you know," she
"I want you to be sure and come to my funeral," she said. "You're not
planning on dying right away," I responded. "No, but when you've been in the
newspaper business as long as I have, I don't expect many to show up."
Mary Ann's ashes return to earth, Pleasant Hill
"I'll be there," I said. "Maybe you could say a few good words," she asked.
"You're good at it." It was then she said after doing this kind of stuff,
reporting, "You'll be lucky to have a couple of friends left, maybe a few who
have grown to know you, like an inner circle. But don't count on it."
She told me a story about a local official she quoted in The Chronicle. The
following day he angrily came to the office to cancel his subscription.
She asked the man if he had been misquoted, stating she would be happy to
make a correction. "It's not that," he said. "You're a horse's a - - ", after
which he left to stick his head back in the office, saying "Besides, you're a
She said "I'd like to remember how many people canceled their
subscriptions those 40 years," stating she believed few of the incidents
related to inaccurate reporting.
Mary Ann with Mary Wildfire and her children Patrick and Cynthia at
Calhoun Writer's Guild meeting
During the funeral, it was noted Mary Ann made Gaylen Duskey the Sport's
Editor when he was in the 9th grade. There had never been a Sport's Editor
before, but she placed the crown on his head. It's obvious Gaylen has never
gotten over it.
Rev. Bob Nicholas recalled the glorious "Silver Haired Girls" of Koffee Cup
fame, who "had a table near the entrance so they could check on everyone,
coming and going." Most of them are now gone, he said, but "I can
remember their roaring outbursts of laughter," during the meal.
Mary Ann with the late Barbara Anderson, and writer Sue
Mary Ann has been a blessing to me, her friendship, feisty independence and
hard work. Beyond her public life, she was a humble person who shared her
love of music and literature with husband Olin, and quietly clung to the
Calhoun community. She had gracious thoughts. "They welcomed an
outsider, and they allowed us to make a living and a life here," she said.
She was among those aging Calhoun ladies we will sorely miss.
MARY ANN RECALLS COMING TO CALHOUN
We've bought The Calhoun Chronicle in Grantsville.
That's what my husband told me on an April day in 1945.
Was I prepared for this? I had some newspaper experience, both writing and
typesetting, married to a man who started out at the age of 12 as a printer's
devil, and had worked at numerous newspapers.
But we didn't own an automobile, house, or furniture, and our $1500 nest
egg had been depleted by $500 with the down payment.
To further complicate things, I was six months pregnant.
I had never heard of Grantsville, never been near that part of my native
state, and never lived in a small town. It was several months before I saw
the place, for I had to stay with my mother elsewhere until the birth of our
We had moved across the United States and back twice in our three year
marriage, to Seattle, Washington, when my husband was in the Army, then
moves to North Carolina, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas for his
We then moved back to West Virginia, this time to make a big investment on
It was a pleasant surprise that we were made welcome in that small town.
We were newcomers, but The Chronicle had been established in 1873, and
was a weekly visitor in most of the homes in the county. That eased our
way, providing we could produce a paper every Thursday consisting of local
news and advertising.
My first work for the paper was keeping the books and proof reading, things
that I could do at home with the baby. Two years later I had to do more work
to keep things going. Fortunately there was a good local grandmother to
stay with our son while I sold advertising, collected news, set type, waited
on customers, kept up the mailing list, continued with the bookkeeping, and
lots of other things.
Mary and Olin loved music
Finally I had learned how to operate every piece of printing equipment in the
shop. Most had to be replaced as new technology came along, and I had to
learn all of them.
We worked hard, many weeks past 60 hours, and even when at home for the
evening, it came as second nature to be ready for events as they happened.
A fire once destroyed a big business block in town; there were several
floods, a few murders, scandals, gas explosions, auto accidents, many
happening at the most inconvenient hours of the night.
Eventually my husband had to retire and I was left to run the paper. Finding
local help, many of them got printer's ink in their blood. It was a good place
to work. When the paper was sold, I stayed on another ten years in the same
capacities, giving up the bookkeeping.
I spent 40 years in the newspaper business, and continue to live in that
small town which has provided pleasure and companionship well beyond my
expectations that day in 1945...Mary Ann Barrows, 1994