I’ve never met Harriet Hausman in person that I can recall. During my 70+ years of residency in River Forest and Oak Park since arriving in l954 as a newly ordained pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest, our paths did not cross.
I regret that.
But maybe that’s the best context for this tribute to her. I write not as a personal friend but as one who has come to know her at a bit of distance through her Wednesday Journal column. In any case, I’m the better for becoming aware of her forceful presence among us.
Harriet Hausman is the kind of gadfly every community needs. She chooses her topics with an inherent wisdom, handed down from family and teachers along the way. She takes on volatile subjects with a nonchalance based on gumption. In her column, she prods rather than soothes. She is shrewd without coming off as cloying. She knows the difference between the obvious and the irrelevant.
In her columns, she regularly takes on public issues with a directness that provokes the kind of controversy that challenges rather than cuts off response — a quality exceedingly rare in this or any day.
Example: Her Aug. 23 column references the shakeup by the National Geographic Magazine’s management in acknowledging its history of condescending treatment of foreign cultures. She learned from that disclosure by the NGM and accepted the challenge of revising her own views on the matter.
Example: Fox News’ multimillion-dollar settlement of a lawsuit against them by Dominion Voting Systems for the Fox News claim that Donald Trump had in fact won the 2020 election but had it stolen from him. She saw in that transaction how costly “Big Lies” can be.
In following up on these examples, Hausman did what she’s at her best in doing, appealing to parents to fulfill their responsibility to influence what their children read and learn. Indeed, all of us have that responsibility. Our democracy depends on it. Our personal well-being as well.
Despite a nearly fatal health scare at home recently, she pledges to keep on writing — and annoying — us in this her 99th year. Just four years in age behind, I’ll cheer for her and do my best with what I’ve been given. I hope you’re of the same mind.
Dean Lueking is pastor emeritus of Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest.