AT 95, STILL STANDING UP FOR WOMEN, LIBERALISM
Henrietta Hay celebrates her 95th birthday with an open house party from 2–4 p.m. Saturday at The Commons
Henrietta Hay does not care if you love or hate her liberal-politics opinions.
Anyone who has read Hay’s columns during the past 19 years knows she supports Hillary Clinton, stem cell research and abortion. Her unabashed love of women’s policies dates back to her involvement with the women’s rights movement in the early 1970s.
Today, Hay turns 95.
When Hay began writing weekly columns for The Daily Sentinel in January 1990, she got “loads” of negative response about her political stance.
“I liked all the excitement,” Hay said. She still has those who don’t support her and her now bimonthly column.
“Some people think it’s courageous to write the column,” Hay said. “I don’t.”
Hay’s liberal stance made her an attractive columnist for The Daily Sentinel because her perspective countered other columnists’ conservative opinions, said Denny Herzog, executive editor.
Herzog, who was the newsroom’s managing editor in 1990, knew Hay’s beliefs and her age — 75 — when she began writing the column.
“She has deep-seated views about things,” Herzog said. “My guess is she has always been engaged.”
But Hay has never been a journalist. In fact, Hay graduated from the University of Colorado in 1930 with an economics degree. She never used it.
Instead, she spent 25 years cataloging with Mesa County Libraries until her retirement in 1989. Shortly after her retirement, Herzog asked Hay about writing a weekly column.
Hay had written book reviews for The Daily Sentinel before retiring, but she had no experience writing columns or writing on deadline. It didn’t matter.
“I thought about it for one second,” Hay said. “I all but threw my arms around Denny — except I think we were on the phone. Finally, at the age of 75, I did the one thing I had always wanted to do.”
After 19 years writing, Hay remains passionate about her column.
“And that is what’s important,” Hay said about her love of writing. “And having that damn computer working.”
At 95, Hay is legally blind and deaf. She can no longer drive. She lives in a third-floor apartment at The Commons, an assisted living center.
But she reads her daily newspaper with a lighted magnifying glass and enjoys researching her columns with the help of an oversized computer monitor. She listens to the nightly news with wireless headphones to control the volume.
Getting older may have physically slowed Hay down, but it hasn’t stopped her.
“She doesn’t waste a lot of time looking back,” said longtime friend Terry Pickens. “She stays so engaged in the world.”
Pickens and Hay have been friends since 1971, when they met while working together at the library. Pickens, at 61, is more than 30 years younger than Hay, but age has never gotten in the way of their friendship.
Pickens has proofread Hay’s columns since 1990. For the past several years, and as Hay has gotten older, Pickens has submitted Hay’s column to The Daily Sentinel. The women talk each night after dinner and meet for breakfast every Friday at Village Inn, where they usually split an order of strawberry crepes.
Hay is a part of Pickens’ family. Hay, who has lived in Grand Junction since 1945, is in charge of making gravy every holiday and used to make the best apple and cherry pies, Pickens said.
Hay’s two sons, John Hay, 69, and David Hay, 62, stay in touch with her, but neither lives in Colorado. She has three grandchildren, including a granddaughter who sings opera in London.
Those who know her best aren’t surprised that Hay raised her children to be independent.
One son is an attorney, and the other son works with computers.
But Hay’s best advice has nothing to do with raising children or even politics.
“Make younger friends,” Hay said. “All my friends are baby boomers. They have cars and energy.”