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Heloise Named COA

Verna Gates, First Runner-up


The National Federation of Press Women named Heloise, a member of the Press Women of Texas, as the organization's 2009 Communicator of Achievement. Verna Gates of the Alabama Media Professionals was named first runner-up. The two were honored at the 2009 NFPW Communicator of Achievement banquet on Friday, Sept. 11, in San Antonio, Texas.

Heloise is known by the single name that she uses as the byline of her syndicated column - "Hints From Heloise."

The column, syndicated by King Features, runs seven days a week in more than 500 newspapers in the United States and internationally. Her online "Daily Hints From Heloise" goes out to more than 250,000 e-mails subscribers five days a week and her Web site, www.Heloise.com, is a source used daily by her column readers and many others seeking trusted, tested and reliable information.

The daughter of the original Heloise, today's Heloise took over the column upon her mother's death in 1977 after working in the office full-time for several years.

Heloise said that she learned from her mother and follows her example in answering questions from readers. Her mother wasn't an expert, but she did know or could find where to go to get the information she needed for her column and taught her daughter to do the same.

A few years back, she visited 10 newspapers in nine days arriving at the paper on her Russian made URAL motocycle with a sidecar, visited with readers, spoke with editors and took many for a ride.

A Texas native, born in Waco, she now lives in San Antonio with her husband, David.

Heloise is a 1974 graduate of Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) at San Marcos, with a bachelor of science degree in education -- a double major in business administration and mathematics with a teacher's certificate.

The Heloise Bowles Memorial Endowed Scholarship was established in October 2006 to commemorate the Texas State Parents Association's 30th Anniversary on the Texas State University campus and to honor the memory of the original Heloise, who was the Association's first honorary chairman. The Scholarship is given to a student who is studying journalism and mass communication or mathematics.

Along with her support of Press Women of Texas, NFPW and other related professional organizations and activities, Heloise also makes frequent appearances for Battered Women's Shelters, the USO and the American Heart Association.

Verna Gates began her career as one of the original 50 employees of CNN who worked to launch the network. She worked for CNN as a writer/producer for four years. A freelance journalist for 26 years, she writes for a number of national, regional and state publications.

She currently reports for two of the world's largest and most prestigious news organizations, TIME Magazine and London-based Reuters International News Service. For Reuters, she has covered national stories from the Southeast Bureau, including presidential candidates, church arsonists, killer tornadoes, white collar crime, Constitutional battles, murder and corruption.

Besides her demanding writing schedule, Verna maintains a high profile in her community, including founding her own nonprofit organization. She serves on a number of boards of directors such as those for Seasoned Perfomers and the Alabama Environmental Council.

She also spins yarns as a storyteller and has twice been awarded the distinction as "Biggest Liar in Alabama" -- lies being Southern-speak for tall tales.

The Alabama Bureau of Tourism named Verna "One of Alabama's Unforgettable Faces in 2003" and The Huntsville (Alabama) Times named her "An Alabama Treasure."

Verna's primary focus is on Fresh Air Family Inc., which she founded and serves as executive director. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to outdoor education. "Our mission is to teach that every living thing deserves respect," Verna said. Fresh Air Family launched in July 2006 and quickly rose more than 10,000 members. She recently received a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education.