Remembering Alice Outwater

Alice Outwater

On behalf of the board of directors and the staff of The Charlotte News, I want to express our deep sorrow at Alice’s death and our lasting appreciation for the extraordinary contributions she has made to the paper over the past decade. 

Alice began writing her Taking Care column for The News in 2008. In that first column, which appeared on April 3 of that year, Alice recommended a good night’s sleep as an effective way of dealing with stress. Over the next 10 years, as she moved into her eighties, she counseled us about how to take good care of ourselves as we age, how to make wise choices and remain open to new possibilities, despite declining eyesight, faltering balance and increasing frailty.

And she enthralled us with her stories. How her Grandmother and Auntie Pasco, on a tramp steamer tied up to a dock to load cargo, sicced their pet cockatoo, Heems, on a knife-wielding intruder and watched the bird drive the intruder out of the room by biting him on his nose. How Jackie Kennedy Onassis drifted in and out of her life back in the late 1940s when they were both students at Vassar. And the day the family bulldog, Duke, rode home in a New York City taxi, alone. 

In her final two columns, she told us about her Grandfather Hooker—who “loomed like a giant at 6 feet 6 inches tall with size 15 black shoes that laced to the ankles”—and his famous magic act, Impossibilities and Miltiades, which was a mystery when she assisted her grandfather in performing it in 1934 and remains a mystery to most magicians today. 

Over the decade she wrote Taking Care, she became one of our most-read and beloved columnists. Her contributions to The News, however, went well beyond writing a monthly column. She was also uniquely generous in her financial support of the paper. Because of her support, we were able in 2016 to build and launch an entirely new and far more modern and easily maintained website and, in addition, to create a searchable digital archive that includes every issue of The News published since 1958. Alice, in her eighties—and still sending us hard-copy photos by FedEx because she didn’t have a scanner—helped bring The Charlotte News digitally into the 21st century.

And there’s more. Alice also provided the funds for an internship program that has over the past four years brought 11 young people, including our newest intern, Violet Bell, into our newsroom as paid apprentice journalists and archivists. 

Speaking just for myself, my favorite bit of perspective and advice from Alice is this: “I realize it’s downright ridiculous I can enjoy the small things in life so much. Be alert to untapped amusement!” Whenever I repeat that last sentence to myself, I chuckle—and crank up my alertness level.

Her obit can be found here.

You can read all of Alice’s stories—on the website she made possible.

Brunches and belief, with Alice

By Alex Bunten

The first time I, as the editor in chief of The Charlotte News, exchanged words with Alice Outwater, it was about some photos. She emailed some very grainy images, and I asked if she had any better. She said she did and would send them forthwith. A few days later I received similarly grainy, hard-copy photos at the office.

When I read and edited Alice’s column, it was clear her life trajectory was unique. I got to know her through some of our events, and she invited me a few times to brunch at Shelburne Farms—a treasured place for her. She saw something in The Charlotte News and something in me. When she offered to fund a five-year paid internship program, I was honored to have her support and driven by her enthusiasm and belief in our efforts—a belief that the future of The News was in the local youth.

When the archive project started to develop, at first she said she wanted nothing to do with it. Too much technology, she said, or something to that effect. It surprised me a bit, but she was strong willed and I didn’t mention it again.

Months later, as the plans started to take shape and we talked about the archive project more in the paper, Alice asked me to brunch at Rustic Roots. She grilled me about why the archive project was so important. Why did the community need this? Why I felt the need to work so damn hard on preserving some old rotting newspapers?

I answered her questions to the best of my ability, and she asked what kind of funds it might take to bring this project to fruition. I gave her the number I knew would get us close. She looked at me as if she saw right through me and slowly pulled out her checkbook.

Alice believed in The Charlotte News and loved this community. I’m proud to have known her and will miss her columns, her joi d’vivre. I hope her enthusiasm, albeit reluctant, for the archive project serves to render our small community and Alice’s life in better resolution than her sometimes grainy images did. Take care, Alice.

Alex Bunten was editor in chief of The Charlotte News from 2015 to 2016.