Kathy Jordan approached life and history with wonderment and zeal
Kathy Jordan never lost her childlike sense of wonderment about Mesa County and its inhabitants.
Kathy died Tuesday morning at Denver’s Swedish Hospital after almost three weeks fighting a losing battle with a brain aneurysm.
Kathy was not a reporter, although she had worked many years in The Daily Sentinel newsroom as a secretary and general factotum. But, near the end of her Sentinel career and under the aegis of the Museum of Western Colorado, she branched out to write a book about the Seventh Street historical district.
That district was her baby. She had nurtured it, prodded its residents to fight for state historical designation in 1984 and fought with city hall in its behalf.
And when she had the opportunity to compile a book about the area which had, in early Grand Junction history, been the town’s ritzy residential neighborhood, she took the challenge. It was her labor of love, although she worried about the fact that she had no writing credentials and feared that she couldn’t put it together properly.
Kathy and I had been casual friends when she worked at the Sentinel and I was a political reporter. We had continued our friendship when I moved to California. When she told me about her self-doubts, I told her I would monitor the project via computer. And so, we spent several months haranguing each other via computer as she sketched out her book and I nitpicked.
With the book successfully under her belt, Kathy took a second challenge — to write a weekly column about historical Grand Junction in The Daily Sentinel. She had the same self-doubts about her ability to handle the column, and I reassured her that she had the talent to write it and the friendly mien to interact with people in interviews.
She said early in the project that she felt her biggest weakness was writing “leads,” those first few words which set the context for a story. And it was true that, in those first weeks, her leads were often wooden and stilted and had to be worked over.
Often I could give Kathy some background which had been imparted to me by my mother, Eva Boecking Giblin, who came to Grand Junction as a child in 1900. What astounded me as the weeks went by and the columns began to build was that she was giving me — a long-time Grand Junction native — much history that was new to me.
Kathy loved to delve into ancient records and old newspapers to dig out forgotten facts. She thrived on finding a new snippet of information and in tracking down someone who might know a bit more about it. She was as excited to dig up some new material about a little-known person or event as she was when she was reporting about one of the town’s founders.
In our conversations on upcoming stories, Kathy was always bubbling over with enthusiasm about an angle she had gleaned from some obscure source. And her leads kept getting sharper and sharper, as she took to heart my admonition to “lure the reader into the story.”
We sent emails on an almost-daily basis, exchanging views on politics, stories and columns we read in The Daily Sentinel, disappointments and successes in our personal lives.
When my new dishwasher leaked an inch or two of water over the wooden floors in my kitchen and dining area, I wrote to her about the dehumidifier which the cleaning crew had placed in the area for a week. I told her it resembled a giant octopus, and sounded like an angry sea, and she promptly dubbed it “Ollie.” We were discussing its progress on the weekend she became ill.
Along with the many other people whose lives she has touched and whose historical projects she has backed, I’ll miss Kathy. She was so alive, so enthusiastic, so filled with joy and wonderment at the opportunity life had given her to tell her stories of Mesa County’s history.
Mary Louise Giblin Henderson is a former political reporter for The Daily Sentinel who now lives in California.