July 26, 1919

This is the centennial anniversary of my mother’s birth. Marion Yvonne Riley was a product of the Heartland, born and educated in Iowa. She was the first woman reporter for the Mason City Globe-Gazette newspaper. During World War II she taught Army Air Corps (now the Air Force) servicemen who were training to be radio operators on bomber aircraft. (It was then she picked up the nickname “Mike” that stuck with her the rest of her life.)

After the War, she migrated to the Pacific Northwest and spent the next twenty years raising six children and catering to a needy husband. She still managed to find time to do volunteer publicity work for Women in Communications, a professional group of which she was a lifetime member, and the Girl Scouts.

When her youngest child, my baby sister, started school, she went to work at The Oregonian, a real newspaper in those days. She started out answering questions related to the “Women’s Section” and soon became a features writer. She was promoted to “Nancy Morris,” The Oregonian’s by-line for its food writing. She led the transition of food as “women’s” news to serious journalism about nutrition and the marketing of food. She eventually left Nancy Morris behind and wrote under her own name, Yvonne Rothert, with the title Food Editor.

She spent her last few years at The Oregonian as assistant editor for the Sunday Northwest magazine. (If you’re old enough you may remember when the bulging Sunday newspaper came with a features-magazine insert.) After retiring, she would take a red pencil to the weekly Northwest, marking errors in spelling or grammar and sending it to the magazine’s editor — who claimed to appreciate it.

At the behest of some of her progeny, Mom wrote a brief memoir, putting on paper — yes, paper, using her prized IBM Selectric typewriter — her life’s experiences. It’s succinct and personal, a narrative of one girl’s and woman’s journey through the Great Depression, the World at War and starting anew post war.

Click on the image below to read it.

My only postscript is that she was likely being kind in her one-sentence recalling my father’s comment about her going back to work. My recollection is of his demand that the house be kept in order, the kids to school on time, dinner on the table in the evening and the shopping done. The result was that she spent much of her salary to hire a person to help with the household and “remind” the children to do their homework when they got home from school.

One thought on “July 26, 1919”

  1. Thank you George, this is a wonderful piece about Mother. And I love the images you included. I forgot that Foster Church wrote her obit in the “O” I have a memory of the expectation that dinner be ready when Huntley Brinkley was over and there damned well better be dessert. Thus Sarah Lee pound cake as a staple after dinner.

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