A tribute to Elizabeth Abbott Sweeten

By MARTHA McCLAIN
Special to the PRESS

Elizabeth Abbott Sweeten was a very colorful person: strong, independent, opinionated, generous to a fault, and quite intelligent.

She was a friend, in addition to being a quality journalist. She came to the Laguna Madre Area in the mid 1970s when the Island was booming. Steve Elam, publisher of the Port Isabel-South Padre PRESS, hired her as a staff reporter during a time when Friday afternoon “tree-toping” ceremonies were commonplace on South Padre. During that time, newspapers were also booming. As editor, I was fortunate to have Elizabeth on staff. We hired her away from the Edinburg Daily Review where she was, believe it or not, society editor. She joined the team at the PRESS that included Betty Wells, Jeff Keplinger, Melba Meyn, Leticia Martinez, and others who came and went over the years.

Elizabeth’s forte was straight news, and she wrote her stories as she saw them. Whether it was covering the Water District, Navigation District or School District, she was unbiased, relied on facts and hunted-down the truth…and almost always found it, much to the dismay of some politicians.

Her ability to write as a journalist, although never formally trained, was remarkable. She could have been a novelist, screenwriter or virtually anything she desired. But for those who knew Elizabeth, knew she was stubborn and rather set in her ways. She was an avid reader and loved the works of philosopher Nietzsche, among others.

Elizabeth was raised in Mission, Texas, attended St. Paul’s Catholic School and graduated from Mission High School. She attended one semester at Ball State College in Indiana, before deciding she couldn’t afford it, she said. She returned to the Valley, and eventually the Edinburg newspaper.

She lived life on her terms. I recall her saying during her 20s while she was at the PRESS, that she did not expect to live to become 30. Well she did live past 30…in fact, she doubled that, and at 61, left this world in a tragic way.

Elizabeth left an impression on everyone at the PRESS, and many in the Laguna Madre Area. Her strength and resolve will be sorely missed. All I can say is –30–. As a journalist, she would know what it means.

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