In today’s column, I’m going to celebrate the nearly 30-year career and contributions of a very important person to the Muscatine Journal and therefore the community -- Beth Van Zandt.

Beth began her time at the Journal working in the pressroom, but quickly landed where she was meant to be, as a full-time photographer. To those of us who have worked at the Journal, she has been much, much more.

She has been chased by a tornado down the bypass. She has stood in close proximity to police stand-offs for hours at a time. She has covered heart-breaking headlines, captured world leaders and famous musicians, but some of her best work has been her knack for catching the community’s children just being plain adorable. Perhaps it is because her first appearance in the Muscatine Journal was as a very upset and crying kindergartner.

Just as much as she has been the head cheerleader of the Journal to the community, she has been the community’s cheerleader to the Journal, always making sure we knew about the stories that tug at the heart strings of our readers. While our sports reporters have made sure to make it known they remain unbiased, Beth would sport Muskie gear eagerly and got to know the many athletes she would see on the other side of her lens and become one of their biggest fans.

This Friday, Beth’s chapter as a full-time employee for the Muscatine Journal comes to an end, but thankfully for us, her tenure as a contract photographer begins. She will still be on the high school sidelines and actually get back to what she is passionate about: capturing some of Muscatine’s best moments.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t miss her presence around the office. In the changing landscape of running a daily community newspaper, Beth has graciously taken on any duties asked of her, and volunteered to take on others that she felt were important. She has made sure the Muscatine Arts Center received our archives; historic papers found in our vault were preserved for future generations and always, always had time to help a customer in the front office who was trying to find the picture of their grandchild but couldn’t remember what day it ran.

She has worked diligently to make sure decades, if not a century of Muscatine Journal photos are archived and that this will continue for decades to come.

While she won’t let me announce her next adventure quite yet, I am excited for her, as it will allow her to continue to serve the Muscatine community as well as just do more good in the world -- something that has always been part of her soul. Her volunteerism has often been behind the scenes, but she truly has made this Earth, and Muscatine a better place to be.

I represent a very talented and heart-felt group of former and current Muscatine Journal employees and the Muscatine business community when I say: Thank you, Beth. You’ve made an outstanding difference in our lives.

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