Herman: The things we learn from our readers


I learn a lot from this newspaper’s readers. For example, if not for Jetty Sutton of Kyle, I would not have known about the Presidio de San Saba, an historic site not in Presidio or San Saba. It’s a mile west of Menard, which is 150 miles northwest of Austin.

The structure initially was built in 1757 to protect Spanish interests, including a nearby mission. The mission burned to the ground during a raid by local tribes. Spain abandoned the presidio in 1772, leaving it to decay. In 1936, the Texas Centennial Commission arranged for a partial reconstruction in conjunction with the state’s big birthday.

“In 1937, the WPA rebuilt a portion of the Presidio de San Saba, but due to poor workmanship it soon fell into ruins,” it says on the presidio’s website. Thanks anyway, Works Progress Administration.

Another restoration, actually more of a reproduction funded by the Texas Historical Commission, began in 2011. Today, it makes for an interesting roadside attraction off U.S. 190, complete with explanatory sign boards.

Somehow I’d never known about it. As I said, I would’ve not known about it if not for American-Statesman reader Sutton, who’s been offering feedback about my columns for several years.

In July 2017, she emailed to say she was “glad you are OK” after my column about my visit to an emergency room after dehydration felled me during a bike ride. In December 2017, after my column about the couple on the Charles Maund Toyota TV ads, Jetty let me know she was not a fan of the commercials.

“She looks like a hoochie mama with the way she dresses, and all their yelling and smirking at each other drives me crazier,” Jetty told me. “I couldn’t believe you did a column about this.”

Jetty: Never shy about sharing her opinions.

I most recently heard from her on April 2 after I wrote about the newspaper’s ownership change and what it might mean to me and the paper. She also was thinking about what it might mean to her.

“My grandfather read the paper every day,” she wrote, “and I grew up reading a paper every day. With the advent of computers and all the new technology, I have known the day was coming when my paper would no longer be delivered to my door. I expect that day is coming very, very soon.”

A creature of a lifetime of habit, Jetty’s day always began with picking up the paper out front of her home. She wished me well under the new ownership here at the paper.

“I will look forward to following your journey (and ours) in the coming days,” Jetty wrote, adding, “Let’s hope the upfront changes are well thought out and the big ones, like disrupting and destroying my morning routine, will come down the road after I celebrate my 76th birthday. … Hugs to you and I will be reading and waiting for the new day.”

So it was with sadness that I read in the April 25 paper that Jetty had fallen 12 days short of making it to that 76th birthday.

“On Tuesday, April 17, 2018, it was discovered that Jetty Jane Sutton had passed away peacefully in her home,” the obituary said.

Jetty was from Menard. I drove there Wednesday for her memorial service at the Presidio de San Saba. She had moved to the Austin area in 1988. Her career included stints at several state agencies, included several that helped people in need. She retired in 1999.

“She was a voracious reader of books,” the obit said, “usually reading a dozen or so hardbacks a month. Once read, she donated her books to the Menard Public Library.”

Did she ever. So much so that there’s a “Jetty’s Picks” section right up front in the Menard Public Library — an impressive facility for a town of 1,741 folks.

Librarian Danese Murray checked the records, which date back only to 2011, and came up with 795 books Jetty had donated after reading (and signing) them. Murray says the total, dating back 20 years or so, easily doubles that 795.

The last book Jetty sent was “I’ll Never Change My Name,” by Ukrainian-American dancer Valentin Chmerkovskiy, a two-time “Dancing With the Stars” winner.

Murray said that Jetty, who had had two relatively short, long-ago marriages, was the engaging sort. I had kind of figured that out from her emails.

“You’d go to a restaurant with her and by the time you got done, she had managed to know everything there was to know about the waitress,” Murray said. “She was just interested in people.”

The obit referred to “her colorful and unique vocabulary.” The 60 or so folks at the Wednesday memorial service chuckled a knowing chuckle when Penny Wade, a longtime Jetty friend who led the service, mentioned that vocabulary.

FYI, Wade identified herself as “a hairdresser and a rancher and a bartender and a bookkeeper,” making her the first hairdresser/rancher/bartender/bookkeeper I’d ever encountered.

The folks at the memorial service were about what you’d expect in a town like Menard: friendly and sans pretense. I saw one black suit and lots of jeans at what was a decidedly upbeat event honoring Jetty.

Jetty’s survivors include daughter Jacintha Cowan of Austin, two brothers, two grandsons, other family members and a newspaper columnist who never met her but will miss her feedback.

The family has requested donations to your favorite charity or the Menard Public Library, where I’m sure that helping to keep Jetty’s Picks stocked with the latest best-sellers would be appreciated.

Cowan told me her mom was found dead of an apparent heart attack in her recliner in her Kyle home. Police had broken into the house after neighbors became concerned when they noticed something unusual: Jetty had not picked up her newspaper that morning.



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