Dayton scribe closes her reporter’s notebook
Laura Tennant has six children, though a case could be made for a spiritual seventh.
The recently retired editor of the Leader-Courier spent 18 years in a maternal love affair while working in and around the Dayton area, enjoying its beauty, people and history.
A product of mining country, the 66-year-old Tennant sits in her dining room under a wall full of photos she’s taken, showcasing her love of nature. She lives deep in the Dayton Valley in a home she and husband, Winston, or “Stony” as he’s known, built some 32 years ago by hand – literally.
“In those days, the banks wouldn’t make loans on houses that were on unpaved roads,” she says. So with hammer and saw, they built their house in a then-sparsely populated valley.
She tells of her husband looking out one night and counting 13 lights off into the distance. “Man, it’s getting crowded out here,” he said.
Things have changed in Dayton since Tennant graduated from Dayton High School in 1955 in a class of just three.
She remembers wanting to be a journalist in high school. “Either that or an interpreter at the United Nations,” she said with a laugh.
After a brief stint in California, she came back to Dayton. Tennant loved her photography classes at University of Nevada, Reno and writing classes at Western Nevada Community College.
One day, she saw an ad in the paper when it came to her: “I’m a journalist,” she said.
She took the job at the paper, back when it wasn’t much more than a free weekly tabloid.
But Laura had a mission. Her goal was to turn around the image of Dayton.
“At that time, we never got good publicity,” she said. “People thought we were the dregs of the earth. Only when something bad happened out here did we get any kind of coverage.”
So she started taking pictures of kids, going to schools, celebrating the positive aspects of the community, raising it to a higher level.
“I’ve always believed in grass-roots journalism, open government and freedom of speech,” she says without affectation of idealism. She says she would often find herself at odds with friends at local government meetings. “They wanted to say things off the record,” she said.
Tennant’s convictions of having a free local press won out over such petty arguments.
But Tennant was never just a stoic reporter. She remembers a sad day when her friend’s son was killed in a farm accident.
“I was a reporter who cried with the family,” she said.
She was a partisan, a spiritual leader of Dayton who often composed as many as 38 stories a week about the town.
On the city’s sesquicentennial, the Saturday of the event was officially decreed “Laura Tennant Day” in Dayton.
“I cried,” she said. “It was really … I’ve just wanted to promote and preserve Dayton’s history …”
The Dayton area has changed too quickly for Tennant’s taste.
“I think the county commissioners have allowed it to grow too fast,” she said bluntly.
Still recovering from a recent hip replacement, Tennant admits she’s found it hard to stay out of the newsroom.
There are plans to remodel her house, starting in January. She and Stony are planning a motorcycle run to Sturgis, S.D., next year. She wants to write a book on the history of Dayton, take more photographs, do more writing.
“I still write a column for the Mason Valley News,” she says.
Plus, she’s made it her mission to give Dayton its proper place in the history books.
She and her husband once thought about retiring to Hawaii, but in the end decided “we’re just Westerners,” and Dayton was their home.
“I love the views. I don’t have to watch TV to get the weather,” she said, looking outside at the Pine Nut mountains with a smile. “I can just look out there and see what’s coming.”
Contact reporter Peter Thompson at email@example.com or 881-1215.