SEASIDE — Readers of the Seaside Signal will find something missing this week.
Claire Lovell, whose column filled the pages of the newspaper since 1990, died at 96 of renal failure after complications from the flu, her family said. She died in the family home where she was born and raised.
Originally called “Overheard: Notes from Seaside,” and later, “Scene and Heard,” her column was a town staple.
Born Sept. 9, 1920, in Seaside, Claire Ruthrauff was the youngest of eight surviving children.
“Her father died right before she was born,” her daughter Robin Derringer said. “All she knew was her sisters, brothers and mother as a family. My grandmother raised them all, without separating anybody, on almost nothing during hard times.”
When Lovell did her nursing residency at St. Vincent’s in Portland, she was homesick “most of the time” and returned to the North Coast, working at what was then St. Mary’s Hospital in Astoria, Derringer said. “On balance, she loved Seaside, loved living in Seaside and never had desire to live anywhere else,” Derringer said.
A lifelong writer, Lovell, while working as a registered nurse, was in charge of a community board. “She would decorate this board for all the occasions and holidays with poems and verses,” Derringer said. “She also wrote verses for Hallmark.”
“She used to write lots of letters to the editor,” Derringer said. “She had very strong opinions. When an opportunity on the paper’s part came, they offered her a chance to get off the letters to the editor page and onto a column of her own.”
Lovell’s column appeared in early January 1990 in the Signal, sandwiched between “Let’s Talk Food,” by Elna Furnish and “Nehalem News,” by Myrtle Slanger.
“Dean and Helen Trachsel took refuge at Terry Nordmark’s home during the high-water episode out Hamlet way,” Lovell wrote in the first “Overheard: Notes from Seaside.” “Helen was lamenting the loss of two new tires that went out with the tide.”
For 27 more years, Lovell’s words entertained and enlightened her loyal readers, many of whom said she was the first thing they read in the paper — some of whom said her column was “the only thing” they read.
Lovell enjoyed writing about current politics and issues, Derringer said. “Sometimes that was not what the paper thought they had hired her to write. So there was a certain amount of back and forth. She said, ‘Maureen Dowd does it.’ I think she would have liked to have a political column.”
Lovell also “liked to write about very esoteric dibs and dabs, too,” her daughter-in-law Nancy Hill said. “Just stream of consciousness almost.”
“What she liked about reporting about local events was it kept her in the swim of things,” Derringer said. “She knew what was going on. People would call her with ideas. Her phone was always busy. She was able to live a pretty full social life as a result of that. As she got older and not out as much — particularly after she quit driving — she missed that kind of contact.”
Accomplished in language
Lovell prided herself on meeting deadlines and her ability to wordsmith a column, Derringer said. “She was really very accomplished in language. We were all raised with a dictionary in our cribs.”
Lovell was among the last writers to submit copy on legal paper, written by hand.
Today, most newspapers list contact information with emails. Lovell’s column for many years included her phone number.
“She was not interested in electronics,” Derringer said.
“She was definitely a 20th-century woman,” Hill added.
Lovell’s last column failed to arrive in time for today’s edition of the Signal. It was delayed, perhaps appropriately, by delivery from the U.S. mail.