To the vast audience of 30-somethings and younger in the crowd, you may be surprised to know there was once a time when the local newspaper was the main form of local news and information -- especially in a small town.

As recently as the 1990s, the Internet was not yet prominent, which meant there were no social media platforms available -- no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and the like which dominate today’s communications culture. Computers and cell phones had not yet become main forms of mobile communication conveyances. From a communications standpoint, today’s collegian or high school student would have felt like they stepped back into the Stone Age if the time machine took them back to 1990 and beyond.

To exchange and receive information in those days of old, people instead talked to each other on landline telephones, wrote letters, and participated in more in-person informal gatherings. To stay connected with the greater community for local news and happenings, they read local newspapers and listened to local radio stations.

In and around Jackson, for 26 years, the many readers of the Jackson-based newspapers depended on Patty Clark for their social news. She penned a social column called “Patty’s Party Line,” later renamed “Time With Patty,” which quickly became one of the most popular and enduring items in the paper. Before Facebook, in Jackson there was Patty Clark and putting it in Facebook terms, her “likes,” “shares,” and “friends” were out of the stratosphere.

Patty did not have a journalism or writing background, but her recruitment as a newspaper columnist was natural. Her husband, the talented, affable and highly respected Ed Clark, was the editor of the Jackson-based newspapers and served the community admirably in the period from 1952 until 1986.

Ed’s front-page columns, “Sun Spots” and “Our Town,” were literary masterpieces as he made the simple sublime, and were often the “first-read and best-read” items during his long tenure as editor. He gave Patty a measure of local fame by referring to her as “The Redhead” (and later “The Former Redhead”) in his columns. I consider myself genuinely fortunate -- personally and professionally -- to have worked for him and later succeed him as editor.

As I recall it, when Winnie Blair retired as the society editor and columnist in the late 1970s, Ed brought Patty on to replace Winnie’s well-known social column, “Wandering Around With Winnie.” Patty proved to be more than up to the task and became a local newspaper legend in her own right.

Employing a vast network of family members, neighbors, personal friends, church and club contacts and through the newspaper office, Patty consistently churned out voluminous columns, dropping hundreds of local names a month, loaded with informational tidbits about who was doing what. Her column was part of what community journalism should be about -- connecting with as many people as possible at the grassroots level, then sharing the news and information. Although she was not a regular full-time employee of the newspaper, she was committed to the project and possessed the work ethic and sense of responsibility to put in the many hours it required each week to make her columns happen.

I stepped back into time to write this column at this particular time because we have just lost Patty Clark. She died on June 18 at the age of 94 at Holzer Assisted Living-Jackson, where she had lived for the last nine years. A memorial service was conducted in her honor last Thursday, July 8 at the Lewis & Gillum Funeral Home in Jackson. Although she outlived many of her friends and newspaper contacts, a large crowd of family, friends and community members were present to pay tribute to her life and work.

Yes, many recalled her newspaper work, but Patty was also greatly invested and involved in the community in many other ways. She and Ed were leading members of the Wagon Wheelers Square Dance Club of Jackson. She was a leader and member of the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, the Jackson Ro-Anns (the women’s auxiliary of the Jackson Rotary Club), the Century Club and the Jackson County Health Advisory Board.

Even with all this work with the newspaper and in the community, Patty found plenty of time for a home and personal life as well. In addition to the square-dancing circuit, the Clarks loved to pile into their RV and go camping with Pike Lake being a favorite destination.

The Clarks also hosted numerous gatherings of friends and family at their Star Street home and Patty’s cooking talents were legendary. Nobody kept records, but if they did, she would rank as one of the highest-volume fudge makers in Jackson County. Of course, she shared with others and found many other ways to give to others.

Not long after Ed died in 2009, Patty’s declining physical condition resulted in her moving to Holzer Assisted Living-Jackson where she lived the remainder of her days, making new friends and maintaining old ones during those years. I enjoyed my Christmas-time visits with her during her final years as I traded Pam’s fresh chocolate-chip cookies for some valued conversation with an old friend. She enjoyed the visits, but I always knew I couldn’t compete with a televised game of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team.

Until her health noticeably declined the past year or two, she remained interested in local people and wanted to know what was going on in the community and enjoyed hearing all the news and behind-the-headlines information I could give her. On a personal level, I respected Patty for her industry, her kind and caring nature, her unwavering honesty, and her willingness to call these things as she saw them. God bless the straightforward!

Most of all, though, I will remember Patty for her contributions to the Jackson newspapers and her work and commitment to keep people informed when it was just more of a hobby than a job. She may not have been an editor, a star reporter or a powerful publisher, but to me she qualifies as a Hall of Famer of Jackson journalism.