Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

October 17, 2013

Walking, talking history book

By Frances Benell
The Daily Iowegian

---- — Lucile West had been an equal opportunity pioneer for a while when I really got to know her, probably in the late 1970s or early 1980s. She started with John and Cecilia Brunow when they bought the Moravia Union and she became the editor. There probably wasn’t another woman working as the editor of a newspaper in the area. She encouraged me and the next thing I knew, I was writing some humor columns for them. I work well with encouragement.

Lucile had the best knowledge of the whole area and knew everyone and usually typed everything ready for layout. She was great at bringing a good story out of most people and wrote touchy subjects without anyone even commenting. She did all the neighborhood reporting in rural Appanoose and Monroe counties and her who-ate-dinner-at-noon-with-whom write ups were masterpieces. She attended some of the clubs as a member herself. She and her husband, Ernest, and their sons, farmed their land and had their own gardens. She canned all she could like most farm wives of the times. She always wanted to write and the job at the newspaper gave her lots of opportunities.

While working with Patty Brown, Lucile’s last employer from 1989-1998 when the paper was sold to the Albia Newspapers, they wrote a book about the school and Lucile wrote history books of this area.

My copy of “Remembering the Way it Was” by Lucile and 100 friends was signed this way. “To Frances: thanks for your encouragement, positive attitudes and ‘can do’ spirit.” I treasure the book and knowing Lucile.

While working in the 1980s, many of us in the area who wrote for pay were eligible to join a women’s organization. For $25 a year, you got a magazine and a real press pass. We could go into lists of meetings as genuine reporters, even ballgames, etc. would be free. Those I remember from this area were Grace Buol and Janet Jenkins from the Albia Newspapers, Ethel Lira and I from the Centerville Iowegian and Lucile and I for the Moravia Union and Albia. That may not be everyone, but all of us were really proud reporters and writers.

Lucile fell and broke her arm while working with Patty Brown, who said Lucile never missed a day of work at the paper. She had ideas about working everyday no matter what. She had taken on the job of editor and meant to meet her own standards.

Lucile and I collaborated on several things, one being a cemetery stroll with live people to tell about and dress like a notable person from the past. Now if we ever did another cemetery stroll, I would want to play her. She knew all about most of the people buried there. So one afternoon, she talked as I wrote it all down as fast as I could, about individual’s activities over the year. She was a walking, talking history book. She talked of cattle drivers before the railroads came through and people visiting each other all over this area on weekends and holidays, carrying food as they went for big celebrations and just visiting. They worked hard and were close families.

Lucile wound up taking computer classes after Art Brown, a classmate, offered to buy her a computer and printer set up if she would use it to record Moravia’s history in book form. I think all of her books sold out.