It is the end of an era at The Regional News as we mourn the passing of Beth Kink, our veteran reporter who devoted 10 years of her life to telling the stories of the people and community of Palos-Orland with such distinction here.
Although Beth left our employ while writing a news story at the end of a dark deadline day in November 2005 – that darkest of Tuesdays – her spirit remains a constant presence here at the office, where she gave so much of her time, talent and energies to report the news of Orland Park and even Palos Heights and Palos Park to boot, during those periods we were between hires for those beats, as well.
Her comeback to what will always be in my mind Beth’s desk, here at The Regional is now a distant, faded dream after Beth was born to eternal life on Aug. 16 at the Lemont Center, her home since that dreadful night she left us.
Never before or since have I as editor had the privilege of working with such an adult as Elizabeth R. “Beth” Kink. But before I go into what a capable, hard-working, diligent reporter and fun person to work with Beth was, it must be said that we fought. Oh Boy! Did we fight, as she herself might put it.
Our combat could be little or big, messy or not, quiet or loud, but always of short duration, rancor without resentment, agreeable disagreement, the inevitable collision of two strong wills amenable to persuasion by the logic of arguments, both stubborn characters willing to back down and concede the other was right: spats almost always ending in apologies, self-effacing humor and the ability to laugh. A worthy opponent, Beth Kink gave as good as she got. And what she got was my respect – admiration for her mind: the depth of her knowledge, her intellect, her moral courage, her beliefs and positions, the epistemology of her entire world view, whether I agreed or not with the bits and pieces of it I did not share.
Back to that laugh. Beth’s laugh is what I miss about her the most. Either that endearing chuckle, or that big, wonderful deep full-throated belly laugh that filled the office when she cracked up. The one that usually assured me that day’s particular issue between us was over, forgiven and forgotten. And then on to the next idea, the next assignment, the next discussion, and even sometimes, yes, the next fight.
It was a good day indeed when Beth smiled and said “Cool!” to one of my story ideas assigned to her. I would feel relief at her enthusiasm. Because once enthused, Beth Kink was dogged in pursuing the task at hand. Most of her story ideas, however, came not from her editor, but were born from her own brain, formed by experiences of being a wife and mother, a parish religious education teacher, a member, past president and editor of the newsletter of the Palos-Orland League of Women Voters and a former elected member of the board of education of Palos School District 118. She was a widely read, intellectually curious advocate of reform causes, from recycling to improving education and its funding, the conservation of nature and humane treatment of animals and those incarcerated in our prisons.
She was a proud grandma of Little Max and his kin. It was tempting for this long-time Reaganite editor to dismiss her causes as those of a “Bleeding Heart Liberal,” but as this same editor grew, and saw and lived and learned and suffered and endured not half as much as the older reporter, the real adult in the relationship, who worked for him, he saw the wisdom in her, the value and even the truth of her hard-won opinions, gained over a lifetime of learning and mind-broadening experience.
“Beth,” I sometimes asked her, “Why didn’t you take the job of editor of the Regional?” after my predecessor died. I can’t remember her answer clearly enough to fairly recapitulate it, for it did not make sense to me at the time. Suffice it to say, Beth Kink was practically the editor of The Regional News for a long while without the title, for this guy could not have filled the role without relying on her wisdom, knowledge, invaluable experience and community-mindedness each and every week she worked with him here at The Regional News.
A few months back, I visited Beth at Lemont Center. She wanted to talk outside on the patio, despite the chill and damp. I let her know Ruth McGinnis was there, too, and maybe they could visit. Beth always loved Ruth’s columns. During our last visit on that patio, we talked of past, present and future. I told her I had shared her hope that she would someday come back to work, covering Orland Park for us, as in the old days. It was good to see her again. But I never made it back.
I owe Beth Kink a lot. She taught me so much about fairness, tolerance, equality, justice, mercy, kindness. The civic virtues of a good democrat, small “d,” who put herself always in the corner of the rights of the underdog. God bless her eternal soul.