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Archive for Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Friends, colleagues recall longtime J-W society editor

July 17, 2007

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The death of Genevieve Balyeat spurred reminiscences Monday of a Journal-World career that spanned more than four decades and a long list of club and community involvement in Lawrence.

Mrs. Balyeat died Sunday at John Knox Village in Lee's Summit, Mo. She was 99. She was born June 20, 1908, in Leonard, Okla., and grew up in Linn County. She graduated from Mound City High School in 1926 and Kansas University in 1930. She taught high school English and music in Westphalia and Blue Mound before moving to Lawrence with her husband, Kent, in 1946.

Bill Mayer, who then was the Journal-World's news editor, said Mrs. Balyeat was working at a pharmacy in the Eldridge Hotel when he hired her as the newspaper's society editor in 1955.

"She taught English and had a good background and we grabbed onto her," Mayer said Monday.

She held that job until she retired, at age 65, in 1973. After that, she continued to work a few days a week at the Journal-World, clipping and filing stories from the newspaper for use by reporters and editors. She worked part time at the newspaper until she was 93, just before she moved from her Kentucky Street apartment to John Knox Village to be near her sister, Lillian Shippee.

"I never, in all my years, worked with anyone down there who was more enjoyable, warmer, more loyal," Mayer said Monday. "She was a lady that just absolutely had the touch to make people comfortable."

The organization that she brought to the Journal-World files also extended into her personal life. Her niece Dorothy Schreiber said Mrs. Balyeat left behind stacks of scrapbooks and a collection of 500 angels that was carefully cataloged according to when and how she had acquired each item. And, Schreiber said, her aunt was known for the poems she wrote for many special family occasions.

"Every birthday, she had a poem on a card," she said.

In addition to her work at the Journal-World, Mrs. Balyeat was active in a number of women's clubs in Lawrence and was an avid bridge player.

Betty Heck, of rural Lawrence, had known Mrs. Balyeat since the 1970s and often gave her a ride to La Sertoma, which later became the Phenix Club.

"She was certainly a lady of grace," Heck said Monday.

Heck and her husband attended Mrs. Balyeat's 99th birthday party last month at John Knox Village and recalled the happiness and spirit their friend continued to display.

"I think she had 99 candles on her cake and she was on oxygen," Heck said. "She only blew out about half of them so she said, 'Save the rest of them for next year.'"

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