Ruth Farlow Uyesugi · 1999
This story is reprinted, with permission, from the Dec. 22, 1998, issue of The Paoli Republican.
By Penny Gilliland
Seventy years ago, a little girl from Paoli had no idea that the mischievous act of sending out birthday invitations would lead her to a successful career as well as land her a place in Indiana history.
But it did and it has.
Ruth Uyesugi, now 75, will join the list of famous Hoosier journalists like Ernie Pyle, John Stempel, Kent Cooper, Eugene Pulliam and John P. Riley, when she is inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame on April 17.
Ruth, or Mrs. U, as she is fondly referred to, is still enjoying her chosen career of journalism while recalling that first try at writing.
She explained that it was her fifth birthday and she had decided to throw herself a surprise party. "I sent out invitations which read, ‘Come to my party with a present under your arm’," she recalled.
"My mother didn’t know anything about it until everyone began arriving," she laughed, "and she was surprised."
But more recently, tables were turned and the surprise was on Mrs. U.
Friday, a Federal Express package was waiting her arrival home. At first glance, Mrs. U dismissed the letter sent by Richard J. Roth, then executive director of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame Association, as a ploy to buy a magazine subscription.
"I didn’t believe it," she said. "I thought it was a ‘Who’s Who,’ Reader’s Digest or Publishers Clearing House entry and that I’d have to buy a magazine. So I filed it."
But a short time later, Mrs. U discovered it wasn’t a ploy, and she was surprised.
"When I told my niece, Karen Doan, about the letter she explained that it was real," Mrs. U said. "I found out that a group of former students, or ‘instigators,’ as I now refer to them, sent in the nomination."
The former students or "instigators," Larry Hollen, Martha Nice, Brenda Cornwell and Roger and Valerie Moon, submitted Mrs. U for nomination earlier in the year.
Spearheading the nomination, Roger Moon, news editor of the Bedford Times-Mail, got together with the other four instigators and submitted Mrs. U’s accomplishments.
"When I opened the letter containing the nomination form, I felt like it had Ruth’s name all over it," said Moon. "I got together with Valerie, Martha, Larry and Brenda, and after discussion, felt that it [the nomination] was worth pursuing."
The nomination included information previously submitted for the Indiana Teacher of the Year award. Mrs. U was named a finalist in that competition in 1981 and 1988.
The nomination covered every base and emphasized Mrs. U’s impact on journalism realized through her students. It also included letters, many written by former students.
"I can’t imagine how it was kept a secret," said Mrs. U. "Everybody knew but me."
And that is probably true.
More than 4,000 students have discovered journalism under the guidance of Mrs. U. Many former Paolite editors went on to edit their respective college newspapers and enjoy a rich career in journalism, while some used her teachings to excel in other areas, including law and education.
One such student, Melissa Farlow, who was awarded a Pulitzer Prize while at the Louisville Courier-Journal, now uses the talents brought out by Mrs. U on the staff at National Geographic, and another, Darcie Tomasallo, uses her writing skills daily as a lawyer for the U.S. Senate. "Darcie told me that she was so happy with her new job because she still gets to write," said Mrs. U.
"It is most rewarding to know that even though many have chosen other career fields, writing is still important," Mrs. U said.
"It doesn’t make a difference whether they [the students] live in a big or small town," she added. "They contribute daily to their communities by continuing to write.
"Once I have them as a journalism student, they can’t escape," she boasted. "They belong to me and journalism, because once you experience journalism you can never stop. It gets in your blood.
"I see a story in almost everything," Mrs. U explained. Her column "The Flip Side," which is published in the Paoli News- Republican, is evidence to that statement. Her faithful readers or "fans" can attest that Mrs. U can and will write about almost anything.
Mrs. U began her illustrious career by obtaining a BA in English and journalism from Earlham College in Richmond in 1945. In 1964 she received her master’s, also in English and journalism, from Indiana University in Bloomington.
She began teaching at Paoli High School in 1955, and in addition to journalism and English also taught Latin and Spanish. Currently, she teaches IU college credit English, creative writing and 10th-grade accelerated English.
Mrs. U’s journalism experience began in 1944 at the Palladium Item in Richmond; however, in 1955 she met her mentor, John P. Riley, former publisher of the Paoli News-Republican, and fellow Hall of Famer, inducted in 1987, while sponsoring PHS’s Paolite.
"I remember him [Riley] yelling at me and making me cry," she recalls, "but I always looked up to him."
She also looks up to the other 167 Hall of Famers. "When I look at the list of previous inductees, I feel out of my league," she explains.
"Everybody in the Hall of Fame either was or is famous," she adds, "except me."
But to many, Mrs. U is famous. In addition to her Paoli News-Republican faithful readers, she has several published works including four plays and a book titled "Don’t Cry, Chiisai, Don’t Cry," about the Japanese relocations during WW II.
"It ["Don't Cry, Chiisai, Don't Cry"] has been my most exciting writing experience," Mrs. U offered. "I felt so strongly about the Japanese relocation and had so many bitter feelings, the writing helped me relieve/diminish those feelings."
Mrs. U dedicated that book to her late husband, Edward, and wishes he could be here now to help her celebrate. "I wish my husband were around now to know this," she said. "He would appreciate it."
But even though Edward will not be in on the celebration, Mrs. U’s children will be. She plans to invite all three, Dr. Edward Jr. of Paoli; Colonel Dan of Atlanta; and Ann of Indianapolis.
"I might even invite Larry Bird," Mrs. U said.
"He said that one of the greatest moments of his life came when he was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame," she explained. "It’s the same thing with me."
"I’m lucky," she added. "I have an advantage over most, because I’ll never die as long as my students are still out there writing."
A brief resume:
• High school diploma, Paoli High School, 1941
• B.A. in English and journalism, Earlham College, 1945.
• Master’s in English and journalism, Indiana University, 1964
• High school teacher in journalism, English, Spanish and Latin, all at Paoli High, beginning in 1955; continues to teach English classes
• College instructor, first in journalism at Northwood Institute of Indiana and more recently as adjunct writing professor at IU o Reporter and wire editor, Richmond Palladium Item, 1944-45
• Sponsor, The Paolite, 1955-98; the paper won All American honors from the National Scholastic Press Association in 1986, 1989 and 1991
• News bureau director, Paoli High School, 1955-98
• Columnist, Paoli News-Republican, 1955-present
• Assistant publicity director, Earlham College, 1945
• Author, Don’t Cry, Chiisai, Don’t Cry, an autobiographical novel, 1978
• Playwright, four plays, 1979-86
• Winner, news story and feature photo awards from Hoosier State Press Association, 1993 and 1994
• Two-time recipient, Outstanding Journalism Teacher of the Nation award
• Two-time finalist, Indiana Teacher of the Year, 1981 and 1988
• Recipient, Indiana University High School Teacher Award, 1987
• Mother, three children: Dr. Edward Uyesugi Jr., Col. Dan Uyesugi and Ann Uyesugi.
• Widow of Dr. Edward Uyesugi