By Debra Downey, Senior Editor
The Dundas Star News is wishing a happy retirement to one of its most faithful and well-loved columnists.
Helen Beswick, who commonly addressed her audience as “Faithful Readers” has penned a weekly column for more than 30 years.
The tradition began when Helen, a potter, served on the Carnegie Gallery’s board of directors. The non-profit organization was shy on funds to advertise its numerous events, so Helen approached the Star News editor with a proposition.
“I made a deal with the editor at the time that if I included other artistic events, would I be allowed to write a column about the arts in Dundas?” Helen recalled.
And so began a relationship between the newspaper and the potter/columnist that has spanned three-plus decades.
Dundas Star News senior editor Debra Downey said Helen’s columns have been an invaluable, folksy addition to the paper for a very long time.
“We thank Helen for her tremendous dedication to the community and the newspaper,” said Downey. “Over the years, Helen became a weekly fixture in our newsroom and many staff consider her a valued friend.”
In the early days, Helen hand-wrote her column and delivered it to the newspaper office each week. This personalized method of submitting her column soon gave way to the use of a series of old typewriters. A friend gave Helen her first computer a few years back, and the octogenarian admits she struggled with the new technology. Helen sometimes made her carefully crafted prose mysteriously disappear; more often than not, the computer would refuse her request to print.
“Times have changed,” said Beswick. “I used to be cornered at the market, but people can find out information on their own now. It’s sort of sad because there is something about newspapers that are special. You can sit down in the corner of the deck in the sunshine with a piece of paper.”
Nancy Gray, chair of the board at the Carnegie Gallery, met Helen not long after moving to Dundas from the United Kingdom 30 years ago.
“Helen’s special contribution through her column is her shared love of this community and her enjoyment of the many things that happen in it, plus the sense of how the arts enrich her life and the pleasure they give her,” said Gray.
She added that as a long-time, active board member of the Carnegie, Helen’s enthusiasm for pottery is infectious and her love of anecdotes a charming trait.
“Helen’s contribution to the gallery has been immense in many ways, and we are very grateful to her for all she has contributed,” said Gray. “I also love her garden, another work of charm and imagination.”
Stan Nowak, president of the Dundas Valley Historical Society, said Helen is one of the greatest story-tellers he has ever known.
“Her writings about the Carnegie, the Dundas Valley School of Art, Dundas Little Theatre and the Dundas museum were that much more special because her views and opinions were very heart-felt and very personal,” said Nowak. “Her column offered a great connection between the cultural institutions about town and the community.”
Nowak, who moved back to the Valley Town in 1999, said Dundas’ 2009 Citizen of the Year is one of his heroes and a true inspiration.
“I’ve met and gotten to know so many not only great but exceptional, people — and even one or two of the living Dundas icons — and Helen is definitely one of those.”
And with three decades in the public eye, Helen, too, has been inspired by the people she has met on her travels around town and beyond.
“Without a doubt, my most wonderful memories of being a columnist are the people I have met,” she said. “I still get Christmas cards from readers, and people still recognize me.”
As Helen has done throughout her career as a columnist, the staff at the Dundas Star News send out a “twenty-one gun salute,” and thank her for her contribution to the paper.