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Retired Educator Honored With Annual Crystal Apple Award

Some funny things happened to Jean Payne on her road to retirement.

She opened a book store, started a newspaper and learned all she could about alternative medicine.

The 74-year-old Nine Mile Falls resident also just won an award, mainly for her efforts at her five-yearold newspaper, the Lake Spokane News Forum.

The annual Crystal Apple Award, sponsored by the Washington School Public Relations Association, goes to the one person outside of the schools who furthers education more than any other.

Payne is the first person in the Spokane area to win the award. She was surprised with the Crystal Apple at a recent Nine Mile Falls school board meeting.

“I was totally floored,” she said. “People were joking. They were saying it was the first time they had seen me speechless.”

Spokane School District 81 spokesman Hugh Davis presented the award to Payne, whom he’s known since 1980.

“She had a wide smile and her chin was tilted up a little bit,” Davis said. “She was very near tears. That was her comment to me: ‘You almost made me cry.”’

Payne edits, publishes and mails her free paper twice a month to every family in the Nine Mile Falls School District.

The paper’s a smorgasbord of articles. The latest issue includes a message from the Nine Mile Falls superintendent, a story on insect control, public notices for Stevens County meetings, school district news, and a note from Payne about DHEA hormones and other alternative medicine.

“That lady cares so much about education and the students in our district, it’s amazing,” said Joe Poss, the school board member who recommended Payne for the Crystal Apple.

Some of her colleagues describe Payne as birdlike. She may be short, but she’s no bird. She doesn’t chirp, and she’s not flighty. She talks long and hard and thoughtfully about the crisis facing America’s education system.

Payne wants schools to teach to students’ levels, talents and interests instead of sending them through a cookie-cutter program.

“They come into this world OK,” Payne said. “It’s what we do to them after we get them that causes problems. We need to keep the stars in their eyes.”

Payne started teaching kindergarten in Mercer Island in the 1940s. She had five children and came back to work as the director of the Parent Cooperative Program at Shoreline Community College.

Payne, her husband and her family moved to the Nine Mile Falls area in 1972. For years Payne directed the Parent Cooperative Program at the Community Colleges of Spokane. She retired about nine years ago.

Payne opened the bookstore “Books ‘n Things” - now “Whimsical Jean’s”- five years ago because she wanted something to do that wouldn’t be too hard on her bad back.

Then came the newspaper, started because of a lack of news about Stevens County politics and local school issues.

Neither venture is a huge money maker. She can sink $200 to $300 of her own money into every issue of the paper. Her book store cleared $9.71 last year. Payne does it all out of a love of her work.

She started the store with used books she had at home. Most of her books appear well-loved, with broken spines and faded jackets. She orders new books based on her interests and her customers’ requests.

Payne also sells health items such as herbal extracts, dried soups and garlic tablets. She also sells magnets.

Payne has miracle stories about people healed by magnets, including herself. She sleeps on a magnetic mattress and insists that magnets and a chiropractor helped heal a painful back problem.

Now, she either lifts weights, swims or does flexible exercises six days a week. She hangs upside down in a booted contraption that stretches her.

“I’m so healthy, I’ll probably live until I’m 90,” Payne said. “I want to be sure to be able to get around.”

And most likely, keep on publishing.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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