Lauretta Borgman of Allensville: 60 years of reporting on her community

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It’s Tuesday morning, and Lauretta Borgman of Allensville has just returned from playing the piano for the residents at the Swiss Villa Nursing and Rehab Center. Donning her signature spring hat wrapped brightly in pink, she carries into the Vevay Newspapers office her weekly Allensville news column.

A smile on her face, a spring in her step, the 87-year old hands over several pieces of paper. On one side are various letters that she has received from hundreds of agencies and organizations through the mail. On the other side, typed by hand on a manual typewriter, is the Allensville news.

“There’s no need to waste that paper,” she says. “The blank side is perfectly good to type on.”

That’s how it is with Lauretta Borgman, nothing is wasted, not even what others might consider “junk mail” that is thrown away.

For 60 years Lauretta Borgman has penned the Allensville news for Vevay Newspapers. In 1945 when Jessie Tinker and her husband moved to Rising Sun, Jessie had to relinquish her duties as the Allensville correspondent.

Lauretta Borgman took over — and the rest is truly journalism history.

“They moved in the Spring,” Lauretta remembers. “I figure on April, but I may have started in March — but that was a long time ago. Back then, people sold out and moved in the spring because the new owners needed to get started planting their crops for the year.”

So from that time the Allensville news has been reported by Lauretta Borgman.

She prefers to type her news, and the preferred method is on an old, manual typewriter that she can’t remember where or how or when she purchased. She does, however, remember her first one.

“When my first husband, Ralph, went off to fight in World War II, he left the house one day and wouldn’t let me go with him and he wouldn’t tell me where he was going,” Lauretta Borgman smiles. “I was pretty mad that I didn’t get to go along, but when he came home he gave me a little portable typewriter. I always figured that he gave it to me so I could type him letters — because I never really had pretty handwriting.”

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Lauretta Borgman was six months old when her parents, Roy and Ethel Works, moved to a farm on Allensville Road. Her father was a farmer, but was ill with asthma much of Lauretta’s childhood. The couple had a son who died at birth, and when Lauretta was born on September 18th, 1917, the family began to settle into farm life in Switzerland County.

Roy Works’ asthma got worse, however, and Lauretta says that when she was three years old, the family went to Colorado one winter in an attempt to ease her dad’s suffering.

“We came home, but daddy kept getting worse, so when I was about eight we sold everything, our horses and all of our belongings, and we went back to Colorado expecting to stay. The weather there didn’t do him any good that time, so we came back to Allensville.”

Roy Works passed away when Lauretta was 11 years old, and Ethel Works and her daughter worked hard to keep the farm operation running.

While Lauretta was at Vevay High School, one of her classmates had a brother who lived near Fairview. Ralph Baatz began to call on Lauretta, and soon the two had fallen deeply in love.

In April of 1935 — a month before Lauretta graduated from Vevay High School — the two were married.

“Ralph was living at our house at the time,” Lauretta remembers. “His sister had accidentally set fire to the house and he didn’t have anything except the clothes on his back. Mom needed help with the chores, so he did work for his room and board. When we got marred we had to keep it a secret until after I graduated, because at that time you didn’t dare tell anyone that you were married, because they would have kicked you out of school. I was too near graduating to do that.”

The newlyweds stayed on the farm at Allensville and helped run the operation, and when Ethel Works remarried around Thanksgiving of 1935, she moved to Markland Pike with her new husband while Lauretta and Ralph remained in Allensville.

Ralph Baatz also worked on the highway department, and at that time the state was building State Road 250, so he worked close to home.

When Ralph Baatz went off to serve his country during World War II, Lauretta went to work.

“I milked the cows and fed the chickens and ran the tractor,” she says proudly. “Not very many others around had a tractor back then, so I traded work with other farmers who didn’t have a tractor. I also took the tractor and the hay baler and traded out baling, too.”

Ralph Baatz returned home following the war and the couple again began to run their farm — but it wouldn’t be long before more changes would take place.

Lauretta Borgman ponders that day as if it was yesterday. It was May of 1954, and her husband was very ill. It was a Thursday, so the doctor’s offices in the county were closed down, and finally she summoned an ambulance to take Ralph to the hospital.

He had suffered a massive heart attack, and passed away in the same month, at the same age, as her father. It was again time for Lauretta Borgman to make it on her own.

*

Lauretta was again handling her farming operation when one day she heard a knock on her front door. Standing there was Clyde Borgman, a man from the Napoleon area who made his living buying and selling cattle.

“Someone had sent him over to my house to see about some cattle,” Lauretta Borgman remembers. “You ask where I met Clyde — and it was right at my front door.”

The two soon became a couple, and on Valentine’s Day of 1957, they were married — and he moved onto the farm near Allensville.

The couple would have nearly 40 happy years together before Clyde passed away in February of 1996.

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In her 60 years of writing, Lauretta Borgman hasn’t missed many weekly columns. She brought in news the week Clyde passed away; and around New Year’s Eve this past year after falling and breaking her hip, Lauretta Borgman wrote her column from her hospital bed at Dearborn County Hospital.

After 60 years as a community correspondent, Lauretta Borgman has seen many changes.

“It’s quite a bit different,” she says. “When I first started, there was someone in Aberdeen who wrote the Aberdeen news; someone in Fairview writing the Fairview news; and someone in East Enterprise writing that news. My news then was more confined to Allensville, but now that they’ve stopped writing, I get news from all over the area.”

How do you generate news each week for 60 years? Lauretta says that she makes a lot of phone calls, and says that you might be surprised at what tidbits turn up.

“I’m always listening for something,” she says. “Jessie Tinker got her news by eavesdropping on the party line. I make calls. If I want to know something badly enough, even if it’s long distance, I still make the call. It’s not a big deal.”

And if you think that Lauretta’s news is strictly for the local residents, you’re wrong again.

“It goes coast to coast,” she says. “I have a school mate in Pasadena, California who gets the paper and reads the news; and Patty Works has a brother in New Jersey who gets the paper, too. It goes everywhere.”

Along with her weekly column, Lauretta is also very active in a variety of causes.

She has supported the American Cancer Society for nearly 60 years, and over time she has sought donations from all around the county. She has already raised about $300 for this year’s “Relay for Life” event.

“I’ve done a lot of things,” she says. “When the war was going on I walked up and down the roads and sold war bonds; and I’ve done people’s taxes and all sorts of other things. It’s good to be busy.”

She has also been a vegetarian since age 11, saying that watching animals killed on the farm as a child upset her to the point that it made her ill.

“I don’t miss meat at all,” she states. “There’s plenty of good things to eat without killing animals for it.”

*

Lauretta Borgman takes time to enjoy life on her farm in Allensville. She still lives just across the road from that farmhouse her parents moved to when she was six months old, and still enjoys playing the organ at the Aberdeen United Methodist Church when called upon.

Life is pretty good for her — but there is one thing that will quickly set her off when it comes to her weekly column.

“If anybody wants to make me mad, just call it a gossip column,” she says. “I consider what I do a community service. I try and get in who’s sick and things like that — and people want to know those things. Sometimes people not too far away don’t even know when someone’s sick.

“If nobody read it, it would be a waste of time,” she continued. “When so many people tell me that they read it, then I know it’s not a waste of time to write it, because it serves this community.”

Served it for more than 60 years — and counting.

— Pat Lanman