I heard the news last from a fellow editor the day before her obituary appeared.
Barbara Foreman died at 88.
Longtime readers of our letters to the editor submissions may recognize her name. From her home in Siloam Springs, Foreman rarely hesitated to offer her thoughts on local and national political matters to readers of this newspaper, some of its predecessors (such as the Benton County Daily Record) or the weekly Siloam Springs Herald Leader.
I won't suggest I knew Barbara well. Like many of our letter writers, I never met her face to face, but I've had dozens of phone conversations with her over the years as I called to confirm her letter submissions.
Her dad, Sherman Dellinger, had served on the Benton County Quorum Court for more than 30 years. She often noted his elective service and how it inspired her to be involved and to pursue knowledge about local, state, national and world events.
She was retired and had moved back to her home region back in the mid-1990s. She took full advantage of the time retirement gave her to be involved in groups like the Republican Women and to write letters when she was inspired by some news event or experience.
Sometimes it seemed from her letters she was on a mission to encourage other readers to keep up to date on the happenings in government, whether it was at the Benton County Courthouse, the state Capitol or the White House and Congress. She urged people to get out and meet candidates, to learn about their policy positions or what they wanted to do if they earned public office.
She had no trouble articulating her opinions and giving whatever facts she felt was needed to back them up. Often enough, her appearance in our letters section generated responses from other readers who felt differently.
It's exactly the kind of healthy discussion of public policy we like to see in our letters to the editor. No personal insults against other letter writers, but different perspectives about the challenges we Arkansans face. She never hesitated to tell me when she thought I was wrong or right. Either way, we could always carry on a great conversation about political issues and personalities.
I appreciate the folks out there who write letters to the editor often enough that readers know their names. They come in all stripes -- liberal, conservative, male, female, good writers and, well, not so polished. Whether it's Jim Parsons of Bella Vista or Bass Trumbo of Fayetteville or any number of other familiar names, letters help us all to get a sense of Northwest Arkansas perspectives.
Our limit of one letter per month may frustrate some of them, but it also requires them to pick their subjects with care. The limit also gives plenty of others space to write.
With the popularity of quick-hit social media, I think letters to the editor are an important part of what this and other newspapers deliver to readers. Rather than dashing off a moment's thought, letter writers tend to devote some time to articulating their message. Despite the fact I (and every other editor of letters across the country) am sometimes accused of favoring one side or other other, my goal as editor is really to get as many perspectives into our publication as possible, to reflect the opinions expressed by residents.
Of course, it's the residents who take time and energy to write, like Barbara, who are published. I've never published a letter nobody submitted. So, if you think your viewpoint is missing, there's a remedy: Write a letter to the editor. Express opinions. Detail the facts to support your opinion. Don't get confused between facts and opinion.
Thanks for reading. Thanks to those who have written. And thanks to Barbara Foreman. See you another time, Barbara.
Greg Harton is editorial page editor for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Contact him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWAGreg.