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Prior Lake, Minnesota

Posted in Columns

Blazing trails, loving people were her legacy

I lost a great mentor last week, who at the age of 92, outlived doctors’ predictions of her lifespan by more than 60 years.

That fact in itself is amazing, but it wasn’t really what made this woman amazing.

Amanda Amy was truly a trail-blazing woman. She left home in her early teens to support herself and see what else there was in the world.

She eventually married, had children, divorced when it was unthinkable to do so, and kept going – ignoring society’s stigmas.

She took advantage of the open job market during World War II – when so many men were gone – venturing west to learn trades that were traditionally only open to men.

When the war was over, she moved to Minnesota, met the man that became her second husband, Clark – and set down roots in Pine River.

She and Clark bought the local newspaper that included a print shop, and Mandy, as she was known, learned the business from the ground up.

She sold subscriptions door-to-door, coaxing people to keep up with the local news. She sold advertising – fully expecting local businesses to support their local newspaper. She wrote a column that lasted for decades – even after she sold the paper to another family.

When Clark became too ill to work, Mandy stepped up as publisher and editor, managing the entire business for many years – including the print shop. She gave a number of local women the opportunity to learn a business that at the time was traditionally a man’s world.

The first time I met Mandy, I was struck by the tiny woman who wore tight jeans, bright colored blouses and high heels – she dressed far differently than my grandmas ever did! Her piercing blue eyes looked me over; she grabbed my hand and gave me – a new community newspaper editor – an encouraging smile.

Mandy became my link to all that was Pine River. I could call and ask her who was related to whom, find out the history of a local board and its alleged shenanigans, get a bit of local gossip or better yet, sit in the room at the back of her house that faced the river and hear her stories of meeting politicians at all levels, of working in a man’s world and being self-sufficient.

While we talked, I realized we were not alone. We were surrounded by photos – literally hundreds of them – in framed collages that covered her walls.

Those photos that did not fit on the walls were carefully filed in boxes, along with yellowed newspaper clippings, old greeting cards and other sentimental items that Mandy could never throw away.

Clearly, people were Mandy’s passion. I wrote about her for an area magazine, and that became the theme of the article.

She helped me realize why I am so drawn to community journalism. I love to write, but I love connecting with people more than anything.

I had not seen Mandy for the past few years, since I moved away, but I thought of her often, especially when the job got tough and I questioned my reasons for doing it.

I will always remember spending the afternoon at her home that sat at the end of the main street in town, giving Mandy a dress-circle view of the community’s comings-and-goings.

I can’t tell you how many people stopped by – one just to say “hello,” another to deliver groceries, and still another to drop off a package. We sat together and ate apple pie and ice cream, sipped our tea and looked out over the partially frozen river.

Mandy, we’ll all miss you. And I hope I can keep your spirit of adventure and determination alive, to one day inspire other journalists like us.