Betsy Denson

Betsy Denson

I remember well when the first Leader that Jonathan McElvy published showed up in my driveway. It was 2012 and my youngest child was almost 3 years old. My husband has always been a Leader reader since we moved into the area in 2004. I was more sporadic.

But when I saw the newspaper on the kitchen table, I knew that something was new. The layout looked completely different. More modern. The stories were about people and things that really interested me. This was what I wanted to read. And also, as it turns out, what I wanted to write.

I left a full-time communications job a few years before and was itching to use my skills and get out into the world again. I contacted the editor, and she was kind enough to assign me a few pieces.

Then, she gave me more. I did the first months for free, just because I was so excited to have an official reason to ask people the questions I wanted to ask them anyway. My grandmother would have said it was meddling. I call it reporting.

It's been almost 10 years since I’ve been a freelance writer for The Leader. And I have learned an unbelievable amount about this community. Hopefully, I’ve helped other people learn about it as well. I have covered real estate, education, food, business, health and much more. Most people still return my calls, I am happy to say. Those who don’t have taught me persistence.

Although picking a favorite story is a bit like choosing a favorite child, there are a few that stand out in my memory. Doing a story on Patrick Swayze’s early life in Oak Forest was next level for me. A friend connected me to her mom, who had a poem that Swayze had written her in elementary school. And my neighbor knew him from high school. How cool is that?

Then there was the story about the Kelman family who was renovating their home in a historic, protected area of the Heights. That piece kicked off a series of articles about the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission — and the struggles young families were having when adding on to their houses.

And then there was the Kellers in the Heights who were celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary. Yes, 70th. Their secret to a long-lasting marriage? Keeping their family close and still enjoying each other.

Louis Keller died three years later in 2016. Agnes just passed away on May 29 at 97. I am glad I got to meet them and tell their love story.

It’s the “regular” people who have brought me so much joy over the years.

My grandmother — the one who didn’t like meddling — also said there were people who could go to Europe and not have any good stories to tell and those who could pop down to the Piggly Wiggly for groceries and make it sound like the grandest adventure ever.

Some people seem surprised that I want to interview them because they don’t think they are interesting enough to be in the paper. But I have found that everyone has a little bit of the Piggly Wiggly kind of story to tell and it is the people in my backyard that I most want to celebrate. 

People read The Leader. I know because they often reach out to me to suggest a story or find out why they haven’t been receiving their paper.

I’m sure there are those who don’t, too. My husband sometimes tosses that little roll a little closer to their house in the hopes it will make it inside. One neighbor went for years without reading it, but finally took it out of the wrapping. Now they are hooked on the local news.

It blows my mind that this little paper that could has been around for more than 65 years to chronicle the growth and transformation of our little slice of Northwest Houston. I hope it sticks around for 65 more.

Because I am always going to be curious about my neighborhood. I’ll bet you will be, too.

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