Sad day with the end of Betty’s columns

I shed a tear Thursday. Only one – but it was a whopper.

One of my favorite columnists of all time was putting a cap on her pen.

After nearly 30 years of newspaper columns, Betty Werth shared with readers this week that “it’s just … time” to bring an end to her columns.

I, like most of you, loved Betty’s approach to writing. She turned everyday life into interesting tales. She was able to see what others would term “ordinary” and through her pen, make them “extraordinary.”

In many ways Betty is the reason I now call Alpena “home.”

Back in 1988 as my wife and I pondered the move to Alpena from Wheeling, W.Va., and the opportunity to become the newspaper’s editor, I examined the newspaper here very, very closely. As I analyzed it from cover to cover, one thing became very evident early on – that there was an exceptional reporter on the staff that I really, really wanted to work with.

Ironically that reporter – Betty – decided at about that same time that with all that was going on around her, it also would be a good time to step out of her reporter’s role and pursue other opportunities. I was disappointed, but when we agreed that she would continue writing her newspaper column for our readers, I felt somewhat victorious.

When I accepted the position here and actually moved to Alpena in the fall of 1988, during one of the first days here I remember Betty stopping by and sharing with me a welcome gift to the community. It was a kind gesture and cemented in my mind that I had made the right decision moving here.

Decades later I couldn’t help but smile when Managing Editor Steve Murch and I interviewed a very bright and precocious young man for a reporter’s position. For me, it was deja vu when we hired that young man – Betty’s son Andrew – and he began his reporting career in the same newsroom his mother once worked.

I have been in this business now for 36 years. I have worked in three states and covered everything from national labor strikes to city planning meetings, coal and steel industries to ma and pop businesses. I have worked with more than 100 different faces and interviewed more than a thousand others.

And today, I can honestly share, I never have been affiliated with a better newspaper columnist than Betty. She is the “best of the best,” the “cream of the crop.”

Betty wrote Thursday that “for me, this hasn’t just been a newspaper column; it’s been a relationship.”

And for all of us, it was one heck of a great one!

I will miss Betty every other Thursday.

I know you will too.

Bill Speer can be reached via email at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13. Read his blog, More BS?(Bill Speer) at www.thealpenanews.com.