Apperson died Friday after a short illness. The list of her accomplishments is impressive. She spent 44 years in the newspaper business. In 1977 she was the only female member of the California Newspaper Publishers Association Board of Directors. In 2002, she received the community-wide Meritorious Service Award from the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce.

When Marge Apperson walked in to the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers office with her snow white hair and spry step, reporters were suddenly very serious and focused on their important work. At least, I know I was.

Apperson was the former editor and publisher of the newspaper. Although she had been retired for nearly 20 years by the time I started working as a reporter, she had a commanding presence in the newsroom. I was terrified of her and can think of no higher compliment than her taking my hand firmly in hers, followed by the casual assertion that I was “doing a good job.”

Apperson died Friday after a short illness. The list of her accomplishments is impressive. She spent 44 years in the newspaper business. In 1977 she was the only female member of the California Newspaper Publishers Association Board of Directors. In 2002, she received the community-wide Meritorious Service Award from the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce.

Apperson received many accolades over the course of her adventurous 90 years, but to me, the most memorable thing about her was her commanding presence as a sharp, no-nonsense woman who told it like it was.

Former Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers editor Steve Gerace called Apperson “a great journalist, a great teacher and a mentor for me.”

He said Apperson supported his efforts “from the time I started to work for her as a part time sports reporter and all through my years as editor.”

Apperson would often call Gerace with news tips and was always helpful in working through journalistic issues that came up over the years.

Gerace said Apperson was “no nonsense as a boss” and “stressed the importance of journalistic integrity.”

“I ... appreciated the direction she gave me and I feel fortunate to have learned from her and to have had her support,” Gerace said.

Michael Wirth met Apperson at the gym 11 years ago, when Apperson was serving one of two terms as mayor of Mount Shasta. She said “Madam Editor,” as she called her, was the kind of woman who identified her fears, then turned to face them head on.

“She was afraid of flying, so she decided to get her glider pilot’s license,” said Wirth. “Can you imagine? She had never lived by herself and was afraid to live alone, so she decided she would never, ever lock her front door. She was a person who said, ‘This is it. Now I’m going to step up and do what I’m scared of,’ and that’s what she did.”

Wirth said Apperson was a strong woman who excelled in a man’s world. For more than a decade, the two of them sat down for a couple of hours at a time each week for a “no holds barred” talk about Mount Shasta news as well as national and international headlines.

Up until a few months ago, Apperson was still clipping legals out of the newspaper and having Wirth drive her by new businesses in town.

Mount Shasta Police Department Lieutenant Joe Restine said Apperson was on the first city council he worked for 18 years ago and he always respected her civic mindedness.

“She was very honest and did what she thought was right, even when other influences wanted her to go in another direction,” said Restine. “I respected her as an honest, strong willed person and her dedication to the community.”

“When Marge Apperson was elected to our city council, our meetings got longer,” said Audra (Gibson) Beylik, a former Mount Shasta City Council member and mayor who worked alongside Apperson. “In retrospect, this was a good thing. Her passion for transparency and the Brown Act open meeting laws improved how our elected and appointed officials and city staff did their business. Due in large part to her skills as a journalist with attention to detail, we got things done – lawsuits settled, accountability upheld and always, she asked the hard questions. I’ve met very few women in my life who shared such an interest in discussions about water and sewer treatment plant improvements, and street paving. Marge’s selfless service was to the community she lived in and loved until her dying day.”

Jenny Coyle, who worked for the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers from 1983 to 1994 when they were still known as the Southern Siskiyou Newspapers, called Apperson “a tiger.”

“And she was magic,” Coyle added. “When she was reporting on Siskiyou County news, she probably knew more than anyone else about what was really going on. She was often a trusted confidante on all sides of an issue. She was a respected state leader in journalism. And she taught us all about the Brown Act. Is there another small town with as many residents who are well-versed in the Brown Act? I think not.

“I didn’t always agree with Marge, but she always, always listened to me and justified her position. She was very fair,” said Coyle, who was the Weed Press editor for three years and now works as a communications manager at Energy Foundation.

Coyle told a story about covering a school board meeting and calling Apperson at 1 a.m. because she was “pretty sure” they were violating the Brown Act with a closed door meeting.

“But I didn’t quite have the courage to stand up to them – until I called her. She was enraged at their gall. She said if I didn’t march back in there and object, she’d come down there herself and do it. That gave me the indignation and strength I needed – and god that felt good. Her mentorship informs virtually every day of my life,” Coyle said.

Personally, I will miss Apperson’s visits to the newspaper and seeing her at community events, when she’d stop and offer an encouraging word. As a fellow female editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers I hope to continue her legacy by carrying the newspaper into the future with strength and courage – qualities Apperson had in spades.