For friends and admirers of Marilyn Hagerty, the North Dakota columnist whose straightforward review of the new Olive Garden in Grand Forks recently went viral, it’s been exhilarating to watch the blogosphere move in to mock her and come away humbled by the strength and charm of this seasoned newspaperwoman of the Plains.

There might seem little left to add after the front-page story in today’s Wall Street Journal by Marilyn’s son, James R. Hagerty, a 30-year veteran of the WSJ and the International Herald Tribune in Hong Kong, London, Brussels, Paris, Atlanta, New York, and now Pittsburgh. His piece about his suddenly celebrated mother stresses substance – her work ethic (at 85, she writes five pieces a week for the Grand Forks Herald, the daily long edited by her late husband), her good cheer in the face of swinish condescension, and her flair for human interest stories like those collected in Echoes, still available on Amazon. The unstated subtext: It was no simpleton who raised this reporter.

Partaking of the family modesty, James Hagerty omitted mention of his accomplished sisters, both lawyers. Gail, a mother of three, is presiding judge of the state district court in Bismarck. She’s married to a justice of the North Dakota supreme court.

Their sister Carol, my friend for 35 years, had an adventurous legal career in Washington, D.C., Tokyo, and Denver before marrying a rancher and continuing her practice from the family place on the South Platte River. In her forties, she gave birth to a son and twin daughters. Carol died last December, after a rapid decline from ALS. Here’s the column Marilyn Hagerty wrote after her daughter’s death. It may convey why so many of us cherish her as gallant and wise.

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