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obituaries - March 8, 2012

Winzola Poole McLendon

Winzola Poole McLendon, bestselling author and journalist, died on March 1, 2012, at her home in Washington, DC. Mrs. McLendon lived in Lake Owego for part of her life. She was the widow of Captain John Benjamin McLendon, USN (Ret.), who died in 1993.

Known as "Winnie," she was born in Cardwell, Missouri, to Mactie Ulysses Poole and Ethel Romines Poole. Winnie was raised in Mangum and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Long Beach, California. She went to Long Beach Polytechnic High School with "Bennie" McLendon; they started to date after they had graduated.

As Winnie described it, they were double dating, but only had eyes for each other, not their respective dates. They dated exclusively while he attended the University of Southern California Law School and she worked as a physician's assistant. They married in 1935.

Following their marriage, Bennie accepted a position as an insurance company claims manager for most of Arizona and parts of New Mexico. The couple resided in Phoenix, where their only child, Martha Elizabeth (M'Liz), was born.

When World War II started, Bennie joined the United States Navy and was stationed in Coronado, California, where his family joined him. The family later resided in Long Beach, while he served in the Pacific Theatre as supply officer on the U.S.S. Bowie. He remained in the Navy after the war.

While stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Winnie complained to Bennie that she did not care for the local newspaper coverage of military social events. One day, during a shopping trip to Honolulu, Bennie stopped the car in front of the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper. "Why are you stopping?" asked Winnie. "You complain all the time about the coverage; go tell the editor," said Bennie. Winnie knew a challenge when she heard one (she also figured the editor would not accept a drop-in visit). She was gone longer than Bennie expected; he thought she had stayed in the lobby and would come out and claim the editor wasn't in. Instead, after an hour, she got back into the car, ashen faced, and said, "Get to the library!" "Why?" "Because the editor hired me to write a column and I don't know the first thing about newspapers!" And so, a career was born. The byline of Winzola McLendon appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Washington Post, where she was a staff writer.

When the McLendons moved to Washington, her editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer told a colleague at the Post, "Hire her; she has a nose for news!" During her years with the Post, she was a writer with the Women's Section, a precursor to Style, where she covered First Ladies, starting with Mamie Eisenhower. She also covered Presidential campaigns, major social events, and wrote a number of feature articles.

Later in her career, Winnie was an author's agent and she represented a number of Washington-based writers. She continued to write and sold articles to publications including Look, Ladies Home Journal, McCall's, Good Housekeeping, Town and Country, and other major publications. Her stories were often featured on the cover. She "got" the first interview with Pat Nixon in San Clemente, California, following President Nixon's resignation from the presidency. She was pleasantly surprised when the former President joined the interview, and walked on the beach in his black dress shoes for photographs.

While covering the Nixon White House, Winnie became a confident of Martha Mitchell, wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, and collaborated with her on a book that was not published as Martha invariably balked when the manuscript was ready for the publisher.

Following Martha's death, Winnie wrote a biography, "Martha: The Life of Martha Mitchell," which appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List. She had previously collaborated on another book, "Don't Quote Me: Washington Newswomen and the Power Society," a light-hearted look at the women's Washington press corps written with her friend and colleague Frances Fitzgerald "Scottie" Smith.

Winnie was a member of the National Press Club; she served on the travel committee and led several trips abroad for members. In 1985, Bennie inherited his mother and sister's house on Horseshoe Curve. They loved the water and as they were semi-retired, the McLendons decided to spend half of year each in Lake Oswego and the other half in Washington, DC.

After Bennie died in Lake Oswego in 1993, Winnie moved permanently to Lake Oswego. She loved the community, interacting with her neighbors, and the general ambiance of the Portland area. She became active in the Adult Community Center and participated in many of its activities, especially tai chi. She also gave small group talks at the center about her years as a reporter. She answered questions about presidents, first ladies, members of congress and the political elite in Washington, DC, and surprised her audience with some of her answers. As her general health declined, she spent less time in Lake Oswego and eventually moved back to Washington, DC, to be closer to her daughter.

Winnie is survived by her daughter, M'Liz McLendon of Silver Spring, Maryland; grandsons C. Sean Beardsley of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and P. Colin Beardsley of Seattle, Washington; great granddaughters Rachel Poole Beardsley and Rebecca Dinsmore Beardsley, and their mother, Jill D. Turner.

The family extends its appreciation and gratitude to "Winnie's Warriors," the team of caregivers who became friends and extended members of the family, and to the medical team at the former National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, for their support.

Arrangements by the Robert A. Pumphrey Funeral Home, 7557 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland, 20814. Visitation will be from 3 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 8.

A funeral service will be held at the funeral home at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 9. Burial will be private at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date, where Winnie will join Bennie in final rest.




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