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Chicago Lawn native’s book is ‘off the hook’

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Longtime journalist shares humor columns

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By Tim Hadac

Nancy (Emerson) Besonen has made a career as a news reporter and humor columnist for a weekly paper in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

But her roots are in Chicago Lawn, and it showed during a recent conversation.

Like most true Southwest Siders, she didn’t call Marquette Road by its name.

She called it 67th Street.

Besonen grew up near 67th and Rockwell. She attended McKay Elementary School and then went on to Maria High School, graduating in 1976. Then it was off to Northern Illinois University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1981.

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The author and her work. –Supplied photo

Soon after, her interest in writing and fishing landed her in the U.P.

She enjoyed a 30-year run as a reporter for the L’Anse Sentinel, a weekly newspaper in L’Anse, MichShe also wrote a weekly humor column which was initially all about fishing, but soon grew to include anything relevant to life, as long as it made her readers smile.

Decades later, she has authored a book of humor columns entitled Off the Hook.

Her subject matter ranged from an etiquette column for fishermen, “Ask Miss Demeanor,” to a celebration of calories in “Defender of Fat on a Slippery Slope.” The U.P. takes center stage, but childhood memories from the Southwest Side also shine bright, like her first car she inherited from her brother, Jim.

It stopped at 7-Elevens and White Castles, and that was about it because they didn’t have Starbucks on Chicago’s South Side back in the 1970’s. They didn’t have cup holders in cars, either. Instead, we had St. Christopher medals pasted onto our dashboards.

St. Christopher was the patron saint of travelers, and had a special place in his heart for people who drove with cups of scalding coffee balanced in their laps. He and Jim’s car kept me both safe and caffeinated until I left home to get even higher, this time on education.

The Southwest Side was “a wonderful place to grow up,” she told the Greater Southwest News-Herald earlier this month.

Whether (figuratively) vying for the title of Mrs. UP in a gown fashioned from glittering canning lids, or facing down a wolf with a loaded paintbrush (for real), Off the Hook  celebrates every aspect of Northwoods living and beyond.

Off the Hook is published by Modern History Press of Ann Arbor, Mich. and is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The book includes 85 columns, with something for everyone with a strong sense of the ridiculous. It lists for $21.95 in paperback, but is available for slightly less at modernhistorypress.com.

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