600 columns. Thanks, Al | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | Apr 21, 2017

This is the 600th column I’ve written for the Beacon since the day a dozen or so years ago when I called the Beacon office, asked to speak to the editor, and was connected to Al Hooper.

Breathless with nervousness, I introduced myself, explained that I grew up in Edmonds, left town for 45 years and recently had returned. Could I talk with him about possibly writing a column for the Beacon?

The first word Mr. Hooper said was, “No.” I was embarrassed. Then he added, “Send me a couple of things you’ve written.”

Of course, I hadn’t written anything the least bit appropriate for the paper, so I had to sit down and manufacture two columns right away and send them before he forgot about me. Mr. Hooper emailed back right away: “I didn’t know you could WRITE.” And that’s when I became a weekly columnist for the Beacon.

Later he told me if he said “Yes” to everyone who called, wanting to talk about writing a column for the paper, he’d never get anything else done.

When I made that phone call, my writing experience of the past decades was sketchy. I taught English and coordinated a college tutoring center. I helped students improve their writing and encouraged them to keep at it.

My own writing? I substituted working and kids’ hockey games, gymnastics meets, church youth work and all that prevents a person from writing – unless she has a burning desire to do so. And I guess I didn’t.

In recent years, my interest in writing poetry and prose has increased, helped along by the discipline of writing for the Beacon. Since I’ve come home to Edmonds and been blessed with a committed and talented group, my Writing Sisters, I’ve entered competitions and sometimes won.

Honestly, my victories are bittersweet, because any time I win, I wish that my father were alive, so I could call and tell him. A couple of times, I was privileged to read my winning poems at the San Francisco Public Library.

I knew that after his proud congratulations, he would admonish me, as he had a hundred times from my childhood onward, “Don’t blow your own horn, Honey.” (He’d be pleased to hear that I understood his conviction enough that I deleted this paragraph three times.)

I am grateful to my father for teaching me that humility is essential to recognizing that one person is of no more worth than the next ¬– only different in circumstance.

My dad didn’t have an ounce of arrogance or conceit, and he tried to teach his kids not to be arrogant or conceited either. He’s been gone a long time, but I think often of his humble and kind example.

Oddly, I did not meet Al Hooper in person for three years after that day I called the Beacon office and asked for the editor. We communicated weekly by email, though, and his succinct comments helped me improve my skills immeasurably.

He insists now that he never did anything for me back then but write the headlines for my columns.

In truth, Al – now a published author, retired from journalism – was a mentor and inspiration to me. My dad would appreciate it that Al Hooper doesn’t blow his own horn.


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