Between baby's breath & song: the Elouise Lesson


Expanded from the 7-30-00 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

This newspaper lost a lot of friends and colleagues over the past few months. Columnists Orland T. Outland, Ralph Heller and Don Lynch recently joined ex-editor and commentator E. Gorton "Covey" Covington and former publisher Bill Thompson in the big newsroom in the sky.

Earlier this month, we said goodbye to Tribune/Big Nickel Classified Advertising Manager Elouise Richardson. Sweet Elouise died of cancer at age 63.

Elouise Richardson

I met her more than a quarter-century ago. It was 1975 and I was up against a deadline. I needed a singer to record a musical package I was developing for a regional advertiser. I called a friend who referred me to one Elouise Richardson.

I took a tape and lyrics to her home where I was greeted by a very pleasant lady blessed with a voice capable of rocking the timbers of the venerable Piper's Opera House.

Elouise looked over the lyrics, listened to the orchestral arrangement and sang a few bars as quietly as she could in an enclosed space. Without saying a word, she went to the telephone and made a call. A few minutes later, a gentleman arrived.

She told him she didn't think her voice was right for this project and would he give it a try.

Good call. He was perfect. We went into a studio and got the job done. A few days later, the young man sent me an unexpected thank-you note in the mail.

The money he'd earned had paid for urgently needed medicine for his sick baby. He wanted to let me know of his gratitude for the work.

Whether Elouise knew his situation or not, I never found out. She certainly didn't let ego come into play when presented with the opportunity to get her voice on a commercial series which might have aired all over the west. She made a professional judgment that her voice was not appropriate and found me someone with the proper tools.

Her selflessness resulted in much-needed medication getting into the hands of a desperate father.

On behalf of that child, who's now 25 or 26, I'll express thanks to the benefactor he may have never known, a kind and talented lady named Elouise Richardson.

HISTORIC OCCASIONS. Sometimes writers make mistakes or leave matters unclear. If they are not corrected, history goes down wrong. I set the record straight, big errors or small.

On June 4, I wrote of the passing of longtime Sparks banker and UNR sports booster Ron MacLeod. I erroneously reported the MacLeod family business. According to Ron's brother and Sparks resident, Bruce, his parents, John "Frank" MacLeod and mother Betty, moved to the Rail City from Yerington on December 1, 1954. They owned and operated the Poplar Motel on Prater Way, between 15th and 16th Streets, behind the modern day Dairy Queen.

My error was corrected before the column hit the web. As promised, it now appears with a special sidebar which sets down for posterity how Big Ron came by the unlikely nickname of "Lightning."

Newspapers have been rightly termed the first draft of history. Anything printed here goes into a library's database and much of it will find its way into the electronic archives of the future. If you're digitized, your still alive.

The web recently put me together with a friend of Ralph Heller, my colleague in columny who occupied the south 40 of this Sunday editorial page for many years. This lady had heard of Ralph's passing and wanted to contact Mrs. Heller to send her respects. Mission accomplished.

Perhaps the Internet will prove useful in finding out the truth about Orland Outland. On July 16, I noted that he'd had a fascinating career in U.S. intelligence, something he rarely mentioned. At his memorial service, someone said that Orland operated behind the Iron Curtain during the 1956 Hungarian revolution against communist rule.

When the world's attention got diverted by a crisis at the Suez Canal, Soviet Union Premier Nikita Khruschev sent tanks into Budapest to crush the dissidents. The story goes that most of Outland's team never made it out alive. Mild mannered Orland was one of the few survivors of a real James Bond adventure. He lived to tell the tale, but apparently chose to remain silent.

This exercise in memoriam should not conclude without mention of University of Nevada Keck Museum Curator Tom Lugaski, who died earlier this month. Just last April, he came to public prominence as director of an archaeological dig at a still-secret location in the Nevada outback.

Lugaski led the team excavating the marvelously preserved, fossilized remains of a three million year-old mastodon, a huge ancestor of modern elephants.

Tom Lugaski fought for the interests of students and taxpayers in the face of an unfeeling and often wasteful bureaucracy. Nevada lost a credit to its university and its community when Dr. Lugaski died suddenly at age 52.

MINOR CYBERCORRECTION. Unlike newspapers, there's really no such thing as a mistake on the Internet. You can always go fix it, as I did before my error about the MacLeod family got launched into cyberspace. Last Friday, this newspaper printed its annual "Looking to the 21st Century" edition. The special section carried a fine article announcing the City of Sparks' crisp and pretty new website. Alas, we neglected to print the address: Lobbyists and gadflies take note: council members, hizzoner the mayor and city officials now have e-mail addresses which you can carpet-bomb with your information.

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© 1982-2004 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 31-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of U-News, where the past four years of columns may be accessed. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks Tribune since 1988.

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