Woman Tells News With A Gentle Voice

Neighbors/Severna Park

Jet-setter Chronicles Local Social Scene

August 01, 1991|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff writer

During the Gary Hart rape trial, Margueritte Mills got a call from afriend who had some information about the alleged victim. The friendthought that Mills, who runs the Severna Park Voice newspaper, mightwant an exclusive story.

Mills politely declined, because such a story would not fit the ever-cheerful timbre of the Voice. The Voice speaks not of rape, murder, illegal drugs, death by fire or government scandal, but rather of social gatherings, honors bestowed upon public-spirited citizens, Old Glory and local people in the armed forces.It's a grab bag that might include a Page One poem in one issue, andin another, a full-page mock interview with the Teenage Mutant NinjaTurtles, written by a local woman.

"Oh, people loved it," Mills said of the turtles interview, whichwas accompanied by three turtle photos. "I had people take three or four copies so they could give them to friends.

"Mine is a community happy paper," says Mills. Of the hard news, she says, "Maybe I'd do better if I did print that kind of news, I don't know. But it's notwhat I want to do, so why do it? . . . That's not my cup of tea."

That's an apt metaphor for Mills, who has sipped from many a fine china cup while flying in the upper atmosphere of American society. As society writer for the San Diego Union and the Philadelphia Inquirer,and wife of a Marine Corps colonel, she hobnobbed with Eleanor Roosevelt and dined at the invitation of world-famous Washington hostess Perle Mesta. Now, at 73, she covers the social circuit in Severna Park, where she has lived for 30 years.

"To me, Severna Park is, strangely enough, cosmopolitan," says Mills, sitting in the living room ofher home on Old County Road, a few blocks from the Severn River. "I can take off my shoes and walk down to the beach or put on a luxurious hat and gloves and go to a party in D.C."

Even in her everyday clothes she carries a strong presence, moving and speaking with the verve of a much younger woman. Says her friend, John Underwood, of Severna Park: "If Margueritte Mills is at a party, you'll know it."

And she attends a lot of social gatherings around Severna Park, pickingup news at club meetings, at church and at the local supermarket. Ifit's good news, she's interested.

Blue-eyed and blonde, Mills looks like a cross between Betty White and Barbara Bush. She's a big fanof both George and Barbara, gushes about Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf,makes no apologies for former President Richard M. Nixon -- "the best president we've ever had for foreign affairs" -- and has unabashedly topped Page 1 of the Voice with an essay headlined: "Old Glory -- The Flag of the United States of America."

In its fifth year, the Voice is published twice a month 10 months a year, once a month in July and August. Between 5,000 and 10,000 copies of each issue are mailed free to homes, libraries, local stores. The paper survives on the business of between six and eight regular advertisers, and Mills has vowed that "if I ever go into the red, I'll quit."

She entered the community newspaper business about six years ago, when the publisher of the local Pennysaver asked her to help him run a paper called the Park Voice. After less than a year, the paper folded, and Mills decided to fill the gap with her own paper.

"I want it to be rewarding,educational," says Mills, who ran the Senior Sentinel newspaper for the county Department on Aging from 1977-1979. "I want to let people know what's going on in the area."

The area is not limited to Severna Park. The June 25 issue, for example, featured photographs from aNaval Academy garden party on Page 1 and a story and photographs on academy graduation on Page 7. A Page 5 story reported on the opening of a new geriatric center at Francis Scott Key Medical Center in Baltimore.

Photos on Page 14 wandered even further afield, showing General Schwartzkopf and Desert Storm troops in Saudi Arabia. Mills requested the pictures from U.S. Central Command in Florida to accompany an essay by Severna Park resident Estelle B. White. The essay likenedDesert Storm troops to the Colonists who fought the American Revolution.

Six days a week, Mills goes to the mailbox to find it crammedwith material: essays, poems, news of upcoming social events, fliersfrom community organizations. She writes up some of the material herself, assigns some stories to her writer, Denise Bailey-Jackson, a fellow San Diegan who joined the paper in February. The material gets typed into Mills' home computer, printed on her laser printer, then pasted up in newspaper format. Mills then drives the pages to the Carroll County Times in Westminster, where the paper is printed.

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