Pauline Dubkin Yearwood, 1942-2015

I was very saddened to learn a few weeks ago of the passing of Pauline Dubkin Yearwood, whom I befriended several years ago while doing research on the life and work of her father and Chicago nature writer, Leonard Dubkin. Pauline graciously allowed me to interview her twice in 2007 and lent me a trove of her father’s papers and letters to assist my research, which she encouraged and supported with enthusiasm and generosity. She will be dearly missed by her family, colleagues, and many friends.

This is a reprint of the obituary, “Pauline Dubkin Yearwood, Journalist with Chicago Jewish News, Dies at 73” (Graydon Megan, Chicago Tribune, 6 Jan 2016).

Pauline Dubkin YearwoodPauline Dubkin Yearwood, the longtime managing editor of the Skokie-based Chicago Jewish News, was a prolific and award-winning journalist who covered topics from arts to health care to personal profiles.

“She was an excellent reporter and beyond that a very graceful writer,” said Joseph Aaron, editor and publisher of Chicago Jewish News. “She could handle any subject. For us she wrote a 2,500-word cover story almost every week — something like 900 cover stories.”

Aaron said Yearwood always took an unbiased approach to her work. “Everybody felt she’d given them a fair shake, covered the story fairly,” he said.

Yearwood 73, died of complications of pancreatic cancer on Dec. 22, 2015, according to her daughter Lagusta. She moved to her daughter’s home in New Paltz, N.Y., about a year ago after being diagnosed with the disease.

Pauline Dubkin Yearwood 2After high school at Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, she got a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania before returning to the Chicago area to get a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism of Northwestern University.

By the mid-1970s, she was married and living in Phoenix. She later divorced but remained in Phoenix, where she raised her children and began writing for newspapers including the Phoenix New Times and the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

“She reviewed plays and was a theater critic,” her daughter said.

Yearwood moved back to the Chicago area in the late 1990s and was soon writing for the Chicago Jewish News, work she continued until early December.

“Her writing and reporting were both very impressive,” Aaron said. “I would give her an assignment, and she would know exactly who to call, how to pursue it and how to do the research.”

Yearwood won a Chicago Headline Club Peter Lisagor Award for Exemplary Journalism in the category of Best in-depth Reporting in a Community Newspaper for her October 2008 story, “Obama and the Jews,” examining the relationship between the then soon-to-be president and the Jewish community.

She also won a 2014 American Jewish Press Association award for a 2013 profile of Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

“I found her to be kind, probing and thought-provoking,” Lewis said in an email about the profile, which focused on Lewis’ conversion to the Jewish faith. “It is the essence of Jewish life she was interested in.”

Pauline Dubkin Yearwood 3“She was devoted to her children and her writing,” said former Tribune writer Harriet Choice, who met Yearwood when both were in high school.

Yearwood “also had a passion for animals, very into animal rights,” Choice said. That interest grew out of childhood adventures with her father, who took her to what he called his “secret places” to see natural places around the city.

“She did a lot of work for animal causes” and was a vegan for 22 years, her daughter said.

Judy Voigt, another longtime friend, called Yearwood a brilliant and prolific writer whose work didn’t stop at journalism. “She was an incredible writer — she wrote a couple of plays,” Voigt said.

Yearwood’s play, “The Natural History of Mozart Street,” was based on her father’s efforts to become an expert on nature in the city and was presented in 2010 as a staged reading by Chicago’s Genesis Theatrical Productions.

Aaron said he regularly heard compliments from people covered in Yearwood’s stories. “She really was able to grasp a topic and convey it in a both accurate and colorful way.”

She is also survived by her son, Leonard.

A tribute will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 24, in the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, 610 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.

Graydon Megan is a freelance reporter. A version of this article appeared in print on January 07, 2016, in the Business section of the Chicago Tribune with the headline “Reporter, editor with Chicago Jewish News.”

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