Betty Nash spent much of her life writing an early draft of East Valley history. This weekend, she's being honored for her part in it.
Nash, who turned 85 last week, is being declared a "historical treasure" for her contribution to local journalism and the community by a proclamation jointly signed by Queen Creek Mayor Art Sanders and Gilbert Mayor John Lewis. The proclamation will be presented to Nash at a birthday party hosted by the San Tan Historical Society.
Nash is best known for starting the Chandler Heights Weekly in 1939, when she was 14. The two-page paper was full of stories she gathered riding around to neighbors on horseback in Chandler Heights, an unincorporated community that covered what is now southeast Gilbert and much of Queen Creek.
The publication grew over time. Nash remained a part it for about 10 years, she said, even coming back on weekends to write and deliver the paper when she was a student at the University of Arizona.
She took a break for several years to be a teacher, but she eventually got back into journalism. She was editor for the paper, which became the Chandler Heights Monthly, until 1998.
She also contributed stories to a variety of other Arizona publications.
"Like one woman told me, I was the only person she knew who could go poking around in everyone's business and keep going at it," Nash said. "I enjoy it very much, writing about people."
Nash said she made a point to write only good news. Even when some local boys started knocking down stop signs, she wrote an editorial explaining why that wasn't a good idea instead of printing the names of the youngsters doing it, Nash said.
"I just refused to write the bad things, and I think that helped the community," Nash said. "I think it would work today, but I don't see it happening."
Walter Nash, the youngest of her three sons, also remembers her submitting a few pieces to papers in her native Montana. While Betty lived in Arizona most of her life, she went back to Montana for a few years after getting married.
Betty printed the paper out of her house on a mimeograph machine. Walter said he and his brothers helped with the layout and delivery when they were older. But he has memories of the paper as a young boy, too.
"I remember going to sleep with the typewriter going on the other side of the wall," Walter said. "That was my lullaby."
The idea to honor Nash came from her longtime friend, Sue Sossaman. Sossaman's daughter is married to one of Nash's sons.
Sossaman wrote the text of the proclamation, which also honors Nash for raising three sons after being widowed in 1956 and her involvement in Chandler Heights Community Church, the Republican Party and the San Tan Historical Society.
"She's just a very interesting woman, really a pioneer in her day," Sossaman said. "There's not many left like her."
Nash laughed when asked how she felt about being honored at the historical society for her 85th birthday.
"I'm kind of proud of the fact that I'm that old," Nash said. "I never expected to get there."