Publisher chronicles South Jersey river towns
Beverly Haaf remembers when people didn't know how or where to find out what was happening in Beverly. "I said to people, 'We need our own newspaper,' " says Haaf, a longtime resident of the tidy little Delaware River town in Burlington County.
Beverly Haaf remembers when people didn't know how or where to find out what was happening in Beverly.
"I said to people, 'We need our own newspaper,' " says Haaf, a longtime resident of the tidy little Delaware River town in Burlington County.
"I said it three times."
No one stepped up. So Haaf, author of Thief of Hearts and several other romance novels, launched the Beverly Bee in 1999.
"I like to tell stories," says Haaf, who also writes suspense and horror fiction. "And I want people to know about the good things happening in Beverly."
A 79-year-old mother and grandmother, Haaf gathers and edits news, lays out pages, sells ads, and delivers copies of her free monthly tabloid - which she prefers to call a news magazine - to local merchants, post offices, municipal buildings, and other locations.
One of her first headlines was "Plant Bandit Hits Warren Street"; the novice editor-and-publisher did the interview and snapped photos of victim Mary Malagrino, her dog, Smokey, and the empty plant holders.
She ended the story by quoting Malagrino, who hoped that whoever pilfered her New Guinea impatiens would appreciate their beauty, as she had.
"We try to be positive," Haaf says, adding, "I don't do controversy. I don't accept political ads. They're too nasty."
Church, school and municipal government news, community events, holidays, and nostalgia are the Bee's signature. Most of the material is submitted; like the editor/publisher, contributors are not paid.
"For years, it didn't make any money," Haaf says. "But now it's self-sustaining."
As the Bee has expanded coverage to include the adjacent communities of Delanco and Edgewater Park, as well as nearby Burlington City, circulation has reached about 12,000. And Haaf has become a familiar figure in the river towns.
"People call me the Bee Lady," she says. "Or just Bee."
Since 1962, Haaf has lived with her husband, John, 78, a retired Burlington Township High School principal, in a riverfront house in the heart of Beverly.
The town is so small one could say all of Beverly is in the heart of Beverly: The city of 2,500 is seventh-tenths of a square mile, or just over 500 acres.
Modern-day Beverly is located where newcomers from England settled in the 1690s around the "Dunk's Ferry" terminus. History looms large in the river towns, and the Bee's pages are filled with it.
"Bev has helped the Riverfront Historical Society very much by publishing our monthly news updates, our events, our old pictures and articles about history," Dennis Rogers says.
The group's president, he lives in Edgewater Park but is a proud native of Beverly. He's also a frequent contributor to the Bee.
"Thanks to her paper, [the society] receives donations of old photographs and artifacts that before may have been thrown away," Rogers says.
"Beverly was once a jumping town," says Domenic Astemborski, who regularly advertises his Domenic's Auto Body & Towing firm in the Bee.
A lifelong resident, Astemborski, 66, can remember when Beverly had a movie theater and other downtown businesses, most of them long gone.
The Bee, he says, "is a big help to the community."
Adds City Administrator Rich Wolbert: "It's great having a local paper."
Music to the ears of any journeyman print journalist, including me.
I'm also happy to hear that Haaf has no plans to retire.
"Sometimes I ask myself, why am I doing this? But once I decide to do something, I try to do my best," she says.
As we finish our conversation, I ask if Haaf is on deadline.
The latest issue of the Bee, she says, "goes to the printer in the morning."
So she goes back to work.