February is the month our editorial board honors its most effective letters to the editor for the previous year, so it's altogether fitting that Tina Dearing's life will be celebrated Monday. She was The Journal Gazette's most-honored letter writer, earning the monthly Golden Pen designation five times and penning the Letter of the Year in 1991. Dearing died Sunday at 71.
Her daughter, Jen McKeever, shared that her mother's proudest achievements were seeing her letters published in the Journal Gazette and her Golden Pen awards.
“Her proudest personal moment (besides me, of course) was winning the Letter of the Year in 1991,” McKeever wrote.
We loved hearing from Dearing as much as she enjoyed being published on our pages. Over the years, the General Electric/BAE Systems retiree wrote about health care coverage, a local legislator's criticism of the Girl Scouts, outsourcing, the value of labor unions and more. In 2011, she opined that a letter writer who criticized President Barack Obama “wants his president to look like a cross between Quasimodo and Lady Gaga at the midpoint in his term.”
The Journal Gazette's views were sometimes the focus of Dearing's sharp words: “The mayor, the City Council, the Fort Wayne Community Schools board and their mouthpiece, The Journal Gazette, have all decided that this warm, welcoming city must be transformed into a techno-savvy urban utopia with double-digit tax increases, boutique schools and a downtown that's a white elephant before it's even built,” she wrote in 2007.
In her last published letter, in April 2016, she reflected on the loss of the GE sign at the company's Broadway campus: “I viewed the picture of the deconstruction of the iconic GE sign in the March 30 Journal Gazette with a mixture of sadness and nostalgia. I come from a GE family stretching back several generations, and the logo itself holds special significance in family lore. ... I drove past that sign every day on my way to work and thought of my grandfather and my parents. It also represented a huge part of my own life, most of my friends and my pride in the work I did.
“Perhaps it's just as well that the sign come down now, because today's GE is not my father's, grandfather's or even my own GE,” Dearing wrote. “In those days, products were made with pride in America. Promises to employees and retirees were kept and mutual loyalty was expected and valued. Times have changed, and I'm glad my career was mostly over before they did.”
We don't know what Dearing might have thought of the announcement this week that Do it Best Corp. will move its headquarters and nearly 500 employees to the GE campus, but we know she would have shared her opinion with much wisdom and a touch of humor.
Thanks for writing, Tina.