[Vision2020] A truly sad day for Moscow

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Fri Dec 11 01:58:02 PST 2015

Courtesy of today's (December 11, 2015) Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

INK columnist Vera White dead at 81
Colleagues, friends recall her caustic wit, kindness and cooking
A breath of fresh air for journalism, tough, salty, sweet and kind were among the words used by friends and former co-workers to describe Vera White. The longtime columnist for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News died Tuesday morning in Lewiston at 81 - but left behind more of a following than even she could have anticipated.
"Vera was best known for her INK column in which she covered and promoted controversy, and she was not inhibited from personally being part of the story," said Butch Alford, president of TPC Holdings Inc., which owns the Daily News.
White was a writer either much loved or much despised, due to her habit of shooting from the hip.
"She made a lot of people angry, and she certainly wasn't afraid to express her opinion and go after people who she thought were acting against the public interest," said Shawn O'Neal, who first met White when he was an intern at the paper. "Beyond that, she was smarter than heck, she was funny and she was kind."
O'Neal said he recalled one day in particular, when he was working late on a story and White, known for her cooking, came up and put a plate of chicken wings in front of him.
"Just out of nowhere," O'Neal said.
White was recruited to the paper by then-editor and publisher Jay Shelledy in 1985, after leaving her position at a Lewiston wholesale supply business and completing her term as a Nez Perce County commissioner.
"Vera was a dear friend to both myself and my husband," Sue Thomas, Shelledy's wife said. "Her tremendous wit, enthusiasm for life and unequaled passion for politics made her unforgettable to most who encountered her. The Moscow-Pullman community and the Lewiston-Clarkston valley have lost a memorable citizen."
Kenton Bird, who worked as managing editor for the Idahonian - predecessor of the Daily News - recalled the transition in his newsroom.
"Jay Shelledy came to me and said, 'I'm giving you an extra half position for the newsroom for a news clerk and I've already chosen somebody for it,'" Bird said. "It was Vera White."
Bird said White began her career as a journalist writing obituaries, news briefs and calendar items before adding business stories and arts and entertainment to her repertoire. Besides INK, she wrote Cookbook Corner for the Slice of Life section and often boasted of her collection of cookbooks.
"I was a little skeptical at first," Bird said. "Particularly as I hadn't been consulted in the decision to bring someone into my newsroom. But within a few weeks, Vera had quickly found her way into the hearts of her co-workers."
One of those co-workers was Jeanne DePaul, who currently works at The Lewiston Tribune, but began her career in 1984 at the Idahonian.
"Vera was one of a kind," DePaul said. "Old-fashioned in some ways but forward-thinking in many others."
Due to her job at the Daily News, as well as her political past, White had a great number of contacts.
Former Nez Perce County Commissioner Gary Schroeder and his son, Barrett, were two of them.
Aside from their differing political opinions, Gary Schroeder said he and White enjoyed a working relationship that sometimes included friendly banter and the occasional political joke. Schroeder said he hasn't seen that sort of coverage since White stopped writing her column.
"Since her column stopped there has been a void in political reporting, of someone holding politicians' feet to the fire," he said. "On a small scale, she filled that role of investigative reporter."
Bird also recalled her political knowledge and quick wit on the subject.
"We just loved to have her around because she was always good for a cynical comment or a joke or a quip in response to the events of the day. When the Idaho legislature was in session she always had something caustic to say," he said. "My happiest memories of Vera are coming into the newsroom after five o'clock and finding her still working on a story. She did have the classic nose for news. She relished the scoop as much as any reporter did, regardless of their age or background."
Although a dedicated reporter, White's life was full of much more than work.
A great lover of jazz, White was a regular at the University of Idaho's annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival as well as a great friend to Hampton and Jazz Festival Executive Director Lynn Skinner.
"She was a splendid friend to me, it took a little time for me to get to really know her, and when I did I had a friend forever. Once she became your friend she was always your friend," Skinner said. "She was a splendid lady, not just a reporter - she did a great job at that too, but she was more than that."
Skinner said each year, when Hampton arrived in Moscow, White would hold a dinner party and cook his favorite meal.
"She would make them chicken and dumplings," Skinner said. "The only problem was they were so good, he'd be sitting by me there at the shows and saying, 'Oh, that's wonderful, that's wonderful,' and when I would look back over his eyes were closing. That hot chicken and dumplings had put him to sleep."
White wrote her last INK column for the Daily News in 2013, but her retirement from the news business did not signify a separation from the friends she made during her tenure.
"I especially enjoyed, in recent years, sitting on the deck of her Lewiston Orchards home, enjoying a beverage - Diet Pepsi over ice - with her and listening to her stories," DePaul said. "I will miss hearing her voice

Just last April Rodna and I stopped by to visit her in Lewiston.  We tried to put something together for her and her Moscow friends . . . something we hoped would happen . . . however, sadly, did not.

Here is a short video we took of her while we were down there.


Rest well, friend.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
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