Column, Looking Back

Remembering ‘feel-good’ writers

By Mary Ellen Shaw

With the challenges that Covid has brought into our lives it makes many of us look for “feel good moments” in our day. At times we need to replace negative thoughts with positive ones and how we accomplish that is up to each individual.

For me reading something light and watching movies on the Hallmark Channel lets me escape into someone else’s world for a little while.

Even in my younger days I enjoyed the positive writing that I found in area papers. The words I looked forward to reading weren’t written by famous people. They were written by locals. Their words brightened my day. I knew nothing about their personal lives. I just knew that their words momentarily took me to a “happy place” and the world looked a whole lot brighter as I read what they wrote.

One of my favorite columns was Jo’s Jottings which appeared in the Mountain Times. It was written by the late Josephine Blanchard, who died in 2011 at age 91. I remember her telling readers about events in her life like she was entering the information into a diary. Sometimes an entire column would be about her trips to the mailbox that week and the contents she found therein. I used to get a kick out of her talking about mail that was a request for money. She would call them “begging letters.” Somehow Josephine managed to make even that subject interesting!

Everything was “right with world” each week as long as Josephine was in print. I looked online to see the date that she passed away and noticed that the online condolences were still there. One in particular gave me a glimpse into the personality of my favorite local columnist. Josephine was referred to as “strong, kind, friendly, caring and a credit to her friends, family and community.”

Another person had posted that she was saddened to pick up Mountain Times and find Jo’s Jottings absent. She added, “Sometimes we do not realize the lives we have touched just by living.” That is so true!

I noticed that Josephine had attended Mt. St. Joseph Academy in Rutland where I also went to high school. Must be the Sisters of St Joseph instilled a love of writing in both of us.

Another local person whose words I always looked forward to reading belonged to Jeanne Zingale. Quite often during the course of a year she would write a “Letter to the Editor” of the Rutland Herald. When I looked online I learned that she passed away in 2017. She had been an employee of the Rutland Herald for 31 years. Apparently her writing skills did not go unnoticed by the owner/publisher of the paper, Robert Mitchell. He called her “The Poet Laureate” of the Herald. To many of the readers she was simply the lady who wrote uplifting letters to the editor. When I read that section of the paper I always looked to see if there was a letter from Jeanne. If I was fortunate enough to find one it got my immediate attention.

Jeanne was also a graduate of Mt. St. Joseph Academy. I see a “recurring theme” here! It didn’t matter if you went to school in the ’30s, ’40s or ’60s, the nuns taught all of us verbal skills that came in handy later in life.

Katie Couric made a comment on a talk show recently that most of us can probably relate to. She said there is always someone “out there” who is going through tough times. You don’t know who will be touched by something you say.

So never hesitate to pass along in writing or verbally something that can boost a person’s spirits. I try to keep my columns light and positive. After all, the nuns who taught Josephine and Jeanne at Mt. St. Joseph Academy would definitely be happy that yet another MSJ graduate is continuing to write some “feel good” words just like both of them did for years.

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