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Soon to turn 100, longtime Forum subscriber reflects on changing role of newspaper in her life

Rogna “Ronnie” Hewitt talks Wednesday, Feb. 14, about how reading The Forum is part of her daily routine at Eventide in Moorhead. Hewitt will turn 100 on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. David Samson / The Forum1 / 2
Rogna "Ronnie" Hewitt takes a newspaper break during an August 2003 trip to Norway. Special to The Forum2 / 2

MOORHEAD — It's the little things that matter to Rogna "Ronnie" Hewitt.

The 99-year-old hardly remembers a time when The Forum wasn't in her life — she's been a subscriber since she married John "Ted" Hewitt in 1942.

Over all those decades, Hewitt said it remained her daily source of news — but her connection has evolved along the way.

A few days before her 100th birthday on Saturday, Feb. 17, she said she was excited but "a little bit nervous" to be interviewed for the first time in her life. Rather than talk about a favorite writer or section, however, Hewitt emphasized a small feature of the paper.

Legal documents and paperwork require the date, month and year, she explained, but it's not always easy for her to keep that straight.

"You can get it off The Forum," she said. "The Forum is there."

Hewitt's daughter, Roxann Haggerty, shared a similar story.

After Hewitt moved into Moorhead's Eventide on Eighth senior living facility, she would sometimes call wondering what time it was. Haggerty felt helpless, she said, because she lives in New Jersey.

Haggerty realized her mom could look outside her apartment whenever she was unsure. If The Forum was on her doormat, it must be morning, and if the paper wasn't there, she should go back to bed.

"The Fargo Forum is like a family friend that's been there all her life," Haggerty said.

Always there

The Hewitts farmed near Cogswell, N.D., for a couple years after getting married, then moved to Fargo when Ted got a job with the Fargo Police Department. When he retired in 1981, they moved to rural Glyndon, then back to Fargo in 2000. Ted died in 2003, and Hewitt moved into an apartment at Eventide in recent years.

During that whole stretch of time, Hewitt has remained a Forum subscriber.

She said she knows all about the popularity of getting news online these days. She has a computer and an email account, but said she didn't grow up with them.

"I know I'm living in the wrong century sometimes," she said with a chuckle.

That's why she appreciates the "familiarity" of the newspaper, even if publications have changed in recent decades, too, with a stronger focus now on photographs and color.

These days, she especially enjoys reading the recipes offered each week by Tony and Sarah Nasello. She also likes Don Kinzler's gardening column.

Hewitt pays for the subscription, but she likes to share with her neighbors. She said she usually gives her copy of the paper the next day to a fellow Eventide resident who passes it along to his friends, spreading the latest news among senior living residents who don't use computers.

"It's a wonderful way to communicate," she said.

Haggerty said it was a big part of her family life as long as she can remember. When the Hewitts moved to Fargo in the 1940s, for example, Haggerty said they both found jobs through ads in the paper.

Hewitt's son, Tom Hewitt, recalls tagging along as a kid with his dad after late shifts with the police department to The Forum building, where he'd buy a "very fresh copy" of the paper hot off the presses. When his dad got home, he'd sit down and relax while reading the news.

The classifieds section was especially important to his dad, something he seems to have inherited. Even after moving hours away to Stillwater, Minn., he bought a couple of used cars in Fargo that he saw in Forum advertisements.

Haggerty said The Forum remains an "amazing tool" for her mother. Haggerty's own connection to it has waned since moving out of state, but she said she still feels a bond sometimes, like years ago when her mom used pages from old papers to box up and ship precious cargo to her.

"I would think sometimes that it was the newspaper that was the real treasure," she said. "I would be reading the newspaper with more interest than what was actually in the box."

"When I see the Fargo Forum, it feels like home," Haggerty added.

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson is the Features Editor for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He previously wrote for The Forum and the Grand Forks Herald.

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