When she retired in 2008 — the year she was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame — DeFrange left the newsroom to a standing ovation. Fellow reporters clapped out of respect for not only the columnist but the person.
DeFrange and colleague Don Gammill co-founded Newsoom 101, an introduction to journalism for high school students, 18 years ago. Hundreds of students have attended the program, and many are now journalists and professional writers.
“Developing Newsroom 101 was one of the best, most enjoyable experiences in our careers,” Gammill said. “We fed off each other's knowledge and energy. We would script each day's session, then change it on the fly or during breaks.
“The first year, we had 12 kids and not one of them starting out had intentions of studying journalism. When we finished the class, six were either leaning that way, or told us they definitely wanted to go into journalism. She treated them all like professionals. They loved it.”
Many journalists are better at what they do today because they watched DeFrange at work.
“Ann was a mentor to many, including myself,” Baldwin said. “She was never critical and always helpful. But her writing had a style only Ann could turn out with ease.
“Ann was lifestyles editor where she covered the high society of Oklahoma City. She was just as comfortable in a pair of jeans talking to an interesting man who never left his farm for 50 years. Through their words she would see what victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and tornadoes were experiencing. She knew what to say to make them feel at ease and then she had no trouble telling their story.”
She traveled the state for years with now-retired Oklahoman photographer Jim Argo, capturing stories about everyday Oklahomans.
“Ann Defrange was a great writer, journalist and historian,” Argo said.
DeFrange was a great storyteller who made sure that when readers bought The Oklahoman, they got more than their money's worth; readers got her heart.
“I came here with a few strong talents,” she wrote in her farewell column. “I can write, I'm good with people in an intuitive and empathic way, I have a particular sense of the world around me.”
Through the years, DeFrange found thousands of stories and the perfect career — her entire career was at The Oklahoman.