Matriarch truly made a difference

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I tipped my hat to an honored journalist Friday night, the first woman ever to receive the Nebraska Press Association’s coveted Master Editor-Publisher Award.
This is a very big deal in our association, seen as somewhat of a lifetime achievement award for service above and beyond the call of duty. This woman was a deserving recipient, by every measure, having devoted her professional life to the newspaper industry. She wore many hats and titles, including co-owner, co-publisher, chief financial officer, mentor, volunteer and friend.
I know her best as “Mom.”
Elna Johnson, whose mother, Agnes (Andersen) Christensen, grew up in the Kronborg area of Hamilton County, was and is a leader in her community. Though I’m admittedly biased, I always saw her as a caring, compassionate, trusted voice of reason who was ready and willing to get involved in her hometown of Imperial. She made a difference in that small town, and still does today in retirement, volunteering as a charter member of the community’s foundation board and many church activities.
She worked side by side at the Imperial Republican for many years with her husband Loral, my late father, who was also honored as a Master Editor-Publisher in 2001. I can’t tell you how proud I am to know that both of my parents were honored in this way, though each would humbly say that the opportunity to serve their community was far more precious than the accolades that came at the end of their careers.
As I look back at the example my parents set for my two sisters, brother and I, newspapering was such a natural extension of who they were.
It let them tell stories about their friends and neighbors, sharing happy occasions through photographs that often ended up on the refrigerator or in the family scrapbook.
Publishing a newspaper also let them help the community address times of sadness and tension, lessons I grew up hearing at the dinner table at a very early age. It was absolutely critical, they preached, that you treat people fairly, consistently, and provide a credible source of information for all.
And it gave them a good reason to go to ballgames, concerts, Christmas programs, county fairs and everything else that brings people together in rural Nebraska. They would have gone anyway, of course, because it was where they wanted to be, celebrating life with people who mattered in their world.
It also let them build a business, working long hours together knowing that they were in fact helping their hometown while also providing for their family. That lesson, years later, drew three of their four children back to the newspaper fold.
Dad was often the more vocal one, addressing issues publicly on the editorial page, but we all knew that Mom was an equal partner in every sense of the word. She was so strong in her faith, her character, and her unconditional love for family, setting an example of how to live a full and meaningful life.
She was a “master” all right. Master communicator; master motivator; master listener; and now, deservingly, Master Editor-Publisher.
Thanks, Mom, for being you!

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