Virginia Honchell Jewell (1924-2007) spent her childhood in the coal fields of West Virginia, and moved to Barlow, Kentucky–-home of her maternal grandparents–-as an adolescent. Her father, Ben Honchell, was not a man of material wealth but he was a hard worker, loved to read, and had a passion for ideas. He passed along all three of those qualities to his oldest daughter.
What follows was serendipitous: Virginia Honchell, a journalism student at Murray State University, was asked by Harry Lee Waterfield to be the interim editor of his weekly paper in Clinton, 45 miles away. It was a bold move since Virginia was only a college junior, but with the blessing and recommendation of her favorite professor, Dr. L.J. Horton, she took a leave from her classes and set off for a new adventure. Before returning to graduate at Murray, she had found love twice over: once for her husband-to-be, Ramer B. Jewell, Jr., and second for his family’s long-time home, Hickman County.
The logical end to this story would be Virginia’s return to the Hickman County Gazette, and a long and distinguished career covering local events. But that’s not quite the way it worked out. She did return to Clinton, and for years contributed feature articles and news stories to The Gazette, The Paducah Sun Democrat, The Memphis Commercial Appeal, and the Cairo Evening Citizen. But her real passion lay in the depths of Hickman County and those characters, stories, and quintessential voices that make a place unique. Each chapter of Lick Skillet and The Cat in the Pillowslip reveals both the distinctive spirit of one small county, and the universal concerns that connect us all.
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