Longtime Pa. reporter remembered as fair, accurate

February 03, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - If journalism is the first draft of history, many of the chapters about Chambersburg and Franklin County over the past three decades were penned by J.C. North for the Public Opinion.

The veteran newspaper reporter died unexpectedly Sunday at her home. She was 56.

"Jean North did a super job for Public Opinion for nearly 30 years. She covered just about everything there is to cover in local news, from natural disasters to local government meetings to the New Year's baby," said Kathy Leedy, the paper's editorial page editor.

"We're sharing Jean stories," Leedy said Monday. "She was probably the best known Public Opinion reporter in the area."

Leedy knew North as a competitor and colleague for almost 25 years.

Notepad in hand, North worked as recently as Saturday, covering an event at the IceFest in Chambersburg. Leedy said North's death came as a shock to her co-workers.


"Shocked" and "stunned" were the words used by many when they heard of North's death Monday morning at the Franklin County Courthouse, where she had covered county government and courts over the years.

"A true lady," said District Attorney John F. Nelson. "Every time I talked to her, she'd ask you how you are and she really meant it.

"I talked to her quite a bit when her son was in Iraq. She was very proud of him," Nelson said.

The son, Jaime North, returned late last year and is a reporter for the Public Opinion. North is survived by another son, Ashley.

County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott last spoke with North on Friday as she was seeking details for one of her last stories.

"She was a person that was absolutely dedicated to her profession. She was fair and accurate in her stories," Elliott said.

The people in the commissioners' office "considered her a friend who cared deeply about her community and her family," he said.

"When she worked with us, there was always one thing we could rely on and that was her accuracy," said Chambersburg Police Chief Michael T. DeFrank, who knew North for more than 20 years.

"When I came here, she was really a help to me because she knew the department better than I did," he said.

DeFrank said he could rely on North to "speak with candor."

"We sat through a lot of trials, had a lot of coffee together," said Vicky Taylor, a reporter with The Gazette News, an online newspaper in Chambersburg.

"Jean was a hard worker. When I worked for the Public Opinion, she always volunteered to take on extra stories," Taylor said. "She loved writing, she loved being a journalist and she loved the community."

"She cared about people, and we're finding out today just how much people cared about her," Leedy said.

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