Bonnie McGhee was never the pride of Dilworth, Minn., but she could have been had her mother not died when she was 3. She went to live with her grandparents in Buffalo, Okla., met Rufus Brown, married him, and spent the rest of their years in Protection, Kan.
When she was found dead on Saturday, the Wichita Eagle (see video) writes, she exited the world as Kansas’ oldest working reporter. She was 11 days shy of 103.
She often walked to places in downtown Protection to gather news. “We visit. We yackadoodle,” she said last summer. “I look for things I know people might be interested in.”
At Don’s Cafe on Saturday, most people talked about her, said Dave Webb, a Protection resident who helps each week with the production of the Protection Press and contributes his own column to the paper.
“At Don’s, the word went around very quickly,” Webb said. “Everyone reacted the same way. Bonnie had been around so long you imagined she would always be here. On Thursday, she had been in the cafe. She was all ready to meet and greet everyone.”
In her last column, published this past week, Mrs. Brown wrote that she wasn’t feeling “up to par yet but hope I am on the last mile … If all goes well, I may make it for my next birthday. One never knows what’s in store for any of us.”
The newspaper’s editor, Susan Edmonston, said the passing of Mrs. Brown leaves a tremendous void not just in Protection but across the state for subscribers and other writers who followed Mrs. Brown’s activities. Edmonston said she always counted on receiving Mrs. Brown’s column late Sunday night or early Monday morning. They were written on Sundays.
“We were cheering her on so she could live forever,” Edmonston said Sunday.
During the United Methodist church service in Protection on Sunday, people celebrated their town’s oldest resident, Edmonston said.
“It came during good news. ‘We were celebrating that the team had won the league tournament and then one lady spoke up and said that the joy is that Bonnie is in heaven. That got smiles on faces,” Edmonston said. “People are going to miss her but she was such a positive, upbeat person, we think she is up there, walking around, talking to everybody and still getting the news.”
She came by her career in journalism with the proper training. She spent most of her adult life working as a waitress in the town cafe.
A graveside service is planned for Wednesday. Don’t send flowers; she hated flowers.
“You can’t eat them, they only die after awhile,” she said.
(h/t: Paul Harrop)