Journalism and COVID-19: Remembering Bette Dewing

This journalist profile is part of Journalism and COVID-19: The Toll of a Pandemic, PEN America’s project covering the toll of the coronavirus crisis on the journalism industry in the United States. Our hearts go out to the family members and friends of the journalists lost during the pandemic.

Bette Dewing looking at the camera and holding her rollator

Photo from Facebook

Name: Bette Dewing
Age: 97
Died: September 5, 2020
Location: New York, NY
Work History:1Remembering Bette DewingOur Town, September 10, 2020.

  • Columnist, Our Town

Selected Remembrances:
“My brother and I can’t thank you enough for allowing her and encouraging her to write as she did. It kept her going for so many years. Your readers, all of her friends, those in power and out and every New Yorker should be thankful for having her in the community which she contributed so much to. In these trying times, we need many more like her.”
—Todd Brabec, son of Bette Dewing [Our Town]

“She had a kind of Midwestern sensibility about how people should be to each other. But she was very opinionated, very confident about her opinions, and didn’t back down. To me, that’s a New York-y kind of thing.”
—Arlene Kayatt, Columnist, Our Town [The New York Times]

“To say that Bette loved the Upper East Side is the kind of understatement that you would never find in a Bette Dewing column. She was passionate about the place and the people and she made that abundantly clear in everything she wrote. I should also mention that she was no pushover when it came to the editing process. She knew what she wanted to say and how she wanted to say it. If she didn’t like a headline I wrote or a change I made to her copy, she didn’t hesitate to let me know.”
—David Noonan, Deputy Editor, Our Town [Our Town]

“She deemed some subjects worthy of praise. She thrilled to summertime big band concerts held in a neighborhood park featuring musicians like Bucky Pizzarelli. She answered every letter from readers and encouraged them to send letters to the editor as a form of civic engagement; she herself had nearly 100 published in The New York Times. It was her many letters to Our Town, in fact, that got her started working at the paper in 1974.”
—Alex Traub, News Assistant and Reporter, The New York Times [The New York Times]

Selected Work:
On Valentines and Halftime Shows” Our Town, February 10, 2020.

“‘You make me smile with my heart’

“As some of you know, those words are from the ever timeless ‘My Funny Valentine.’ And yes, composers Rodgers and Hart wrote them about couple love. But “smiling with our hearts” is so universally needed. So are songs that apply to family, friendship and neighbor love. And you’ll agree that infinitely more needs to be said about these affections so essential to everyday health and well-being.”

All Ages Must Help After DisastersOur Town, September 9, 2019.

“All ages and surely all political parties working together and hopefully overcoming the unnatural divisions that defeat the village it takes – the village it takes to prevent unnatural disasters and give overwhelming response to the natural kind. It can be done if enough of us try.”

Protest Traffic Violence as Well as Gun Violence!” Our Town, August 12, 2019.

“Before starting this column, a glance at NY 1 news and once again it’s about Traffic Violence – two speeding NYFD ambulances collide, one overturned. Thankfully, there were no patients inside. But what if? What if indeed, and this should be considered in the Mayor’s admirable Vision Zero program to reduce traffic tragedies, which an article in this paper last week asked if it’s working. And this longtime safe traffic activist, who has unfortunately been an ambulance user, questions the speeding danger of emergency vehicles. Maybe it should be somewhat curtailed for the safety of the patient and the community at large.”

everyday lifelinesOur Town, March 1, 2017.

“A wise man, Dr. Samuel Johnson, counseled that ‘we often need to be reminded as well as informed.’ That recalled news that should be remembered, such as the recent tragic, accidental, line-of-duty death of Miguel Angel Gonzalez. And this is to remind us of the risks doormen often take on their tenants’ behalf. And in a time of less and less face-to-face, voice-to -voice exchange, and small, often distant families, how doormen indispensably add to a building’s quality of life as well its safety. Pondering all this could also be a Lenten or pre-Passover time reflection.”

spreading light, and cheer” Our Town, December 20, 2016.

“More than ever we talk about “bringing people together,” and we need to hear more, infinitely more, about one city Yuletide tradition which does just that, and so much more. It’s those balsam trees which magically light up Park Avenue every year from the first Sunday in December through Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.”