WASHINGTON — Esther Van Wagoner Tufty, who survived seven pacemaker operations, a mercy airlift to Berlin atop 10 tons of coal and a presidential campaign train wreck to make her probably the oldest working newsperson in the nation's capital, is dead at 89.
Tufty, who covered every President since Franklin D. Roosevelt, died at a nursing home in suburban Alexandria, Va. on Sunday.
She was raised in Pontiac, Mich., and after high school, went to work for the newspaper there as assistant society editor for $7.50 a week. She continued newspaper work while attending the University of Wisconsin.
She came to Washington in 1935 and started the Tufty News Service for 26 small Michigan newspapers. At its height, her service provided stories to 300 newspapers.
Hurt in Dewey Train Wreck
During the 1944 presidential campaign, she was injured in the wreck of New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey's campaign train. When the Soviets blockaded Berlin after World War II, she flew into the city atop 10 tons of coal aboard an airlift transport. And before a national television audience in 1952, she climbed on top of a table to reach the man she wanted to interview.