The oldest child of former Star Tribune publisher John Cowles Sr. dedicated her life to serving her community.
Elizabeth Morley Cowles Ballantine, the oldest child of former Star Tribune publisher John Cowles Sr., died of respiratory failure Saturday in Durango, Colo., where she had been chairwoman of the board and publisher of the Durango Herald.
Ballantine, 84, was an award-winning journalist whose thought-provoking columns, in which she tackled everything from politics to family topics and from national and international issues to giving personal advice, delighted readers for more than 50 years.
She was a strong advocate for Planned Parenthood in her native Iowa and Colorado, founded the League of Women Voters in Durango and was a staunch champion of the arts and education. She was not afraid to speak her mind and hold to her convictions, but she welcomed opposing views, said her daughter Elizabeth Ballantine of McLean, Va.
"She certainly was not afraid of including news that could be harmful or critical in the short term," said her son Richard Ballantine, now publisher of the Durango Herald. "She believed that when you air these things out, it would turn out for the better. She had integrity. She was fair, and took stands."
Said her daughter: "She loved robust argument. She enjoyed great conversation."
Ballantine, who went by her middle name, Morley, was steeped in newspaper tradition growing up. Her grandfather, Gardner Cowles Sr., was an Iowa newspaper legend who owned the Des Moines Register.
Her father, John Sr., bought the Minneapolis Star in 1935 and moved to the Twin Cities. By 1941, he was publishing the morning Minneapolis Tribune and the afternoon Star.
In 1944, she married Richard P. Gale, son of former U.S. Rep. Richard Pillsbury Gale. He committed suicide two years later. In 1947, her father invited one of his up-and-coming reporters, Arthur A. Ballantine Jr., to dinner at the family home in south Minneapolis. That is where his mother's and Arthur's "orbits began to overlap," Richard said. The two wed that same year.
Arthur, who had been editor of the Harvard Crimson, and Morley Cowles talked about running their own newspaper "away from parents," Richard said. That led them to Durango, where they relocated in 1952 and bought the town's two newspapers and eventually merged them.
As editors, the couple promoted progressive government and actively endorsed political candidates. Ballantine won a Colorado Press Association award in 1952, the first of many she received over the years. In 1968, she was the first woman to be named chair of the Colorado Associated Press Association. She served on the boards of Cowles Media Co. of Minneapolis and the Register and Tribune Co. of Des Moines.
"She was a pillar of strength in the whole press of Colorado," former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer told the Durango Herald.
"She was a very interesting woman, powerful, and her opinion was very influential. I will always remember her smile, her friendliness and her engaging personality that always said, 'I'm happy to see you.' "
Morley attended Smith College in Northampton, Mass., the University of Minnesota and Stanford University, and graduated at age 50 from Fort Lewis College in Durango. She was a past trustee of Simpson College in Iowa and a board member of the Gardner and Florence Call Cowles Foundation.
She was preceded in death by her two husbands. In addition to her daughter Elizabeth and son Richard, she is survived by another son, William, of Seattle; another daughter, Helen Ballantine, of Wichita, Kan.; two brothers, John Jr. and Russell, both of Minneapolis; a sister, Sarah Doering, of Northampton, and nine grandchildren.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College in Durango.