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Viewpoint: Judy Spooner's career full of curiosity and compassion

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opinion Cottage Grove, 55016

Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Judy Spooner was in the newspaper office recently, telling tales and talking about old stories.

She had just informed the news staff of her plan to retire — she closed her reporter’s notebook Sept. 30 — and it was cause for reminiscing.

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After sharing some memories from 30-plus years spent cranking out countless stories and columns for the Bulletin, she pointed to the stack of bound volumes that include every edition of the paper from 1961 to the present.

“My life is in those books,” she said.

It seems increasingly rare that someone spends the bulk of a career in one field, and rarer still that it’s with only one employer. That’s especially true in the ever-changing newspaper industry, but Judy pulled it off. As other reporters and editors came and went for a variety of reasons, Judy’s byline remained in the Bulletin for one main reason: she wanted to tell the stories of her community.

If you had occasion to be interviewed by Judy, as many people did over the years, you may have noticed she is curious and compassionate.

Curiosity is key for a reporter and Judy has it, whether she is dealing with hard news or working on a feature story. It has served her well, as her need to know often leads to stories that others might overlook. For instance, she dropped by the office one day a couple of years ago to say she had discovered elaborate, artistic chalk drawings on a sidewalk while she was out for her daily walk. Nobody was around to claim credit for the art, so instead of just moving on Judy started knocking on doors nearby.

Guess what? She found the chalk artists. It made for a fun feature story.

Judy has a unique ability and willingness to approach anybody and ask questions. She will certainly ask questions of people in power but she’s not enamored with them. She would rather ask questions of a neighbor with a neat story to share or kids as they gush about a school project than talk to someone with a title.

The neighbor and the school kid are more interesting, she’d say.

Judy cares about the stories she told and the people behind them. She treated them respectfully and listened, regardless of how important or minor their story might seem to others. It was important to them.

People rely on their community newspaper to share their successes and document tough times, and to keep them informed of decisions that will affect their lives.

Judy’s life may be found in the bound volumes of the Bulletin, but because of her so many others’ are as well.

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