Harriet Jane (H.J.) Cummins.

Harriet Jane (H.J.) Cummins. Credit: Cummins family

Former Newsday reporter and editor Harriet Jane Cummins, known as H.J., who spent her life dedicated to reporting on family and changing workplace dynamics, died last week at the age of 70.

Cummins was a journalist for more than 30 years at various publications around the country. She traveled the world in search of her own background conducting interviews for content that would later become a book about her mother.

Cummins was a reporter and editor for Newsday and New York Newsday from 1989 to 1996 before moving on to the Minneapolis Star Tribune for 13 years. She worked as a semiretired freelance writer for the past decade.

She died Nov. 13 following a sudden illness, her daughter Leah Stanton said.

"She was always very active and believed in the power of journalism to expose things and educate people," Stanton said. "She wanted to share important information after coming of age during the Vietnam War era when the government hid a lot of things and journalism revealed a lot of things. Everyday was new and different, talking about a new story and talking to a new people. She always loved reading and writing and was passionate about journalism."

Cummins was born in Oklahoma in 1951 and traveled around the country with her father, who was in the army, living in South Carolina and Louisiana before settling in Seward, Nebraska, where she grew up and graduated high school.

She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and her Masters in English Literature from Creighton University in Omaha.

She worked for the Fort Myers News-Press and the Omaha World Herald as an architecture columnist before moving to Long Island with her husband, Timothy Anderson, who worked at Newsday. She taught as an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University before joining the Newsday business section as a reporter, editor and columnist.

Cummins moved onto the Star Tribune in 1996 and also published a book in 2006 about her mother’s life after fleeing Nazi Germany.

Her book "My Mother’s Daughter" uncovered her mother’s past and her life during and after World War II. She traveled to Germany several times, including a fellowship, to research her past and the emotional effects of fleeing the war.

"My mom was fascinated by that part of her history. She felt that sense of connection growing up in that time and what made her what she was," Stanton said. "I think she loved finding it out and making sense of things."

She moved to Virginia in 2009 to be closer to her only daughter and her grandchildren near Washington D.C. She continued to do freelance work and editing and also taught English as a second language.

Family members are planning a celebration of life next spring, but no immediate services are planned.

Cummins is survived by her daughter, Stanton in Reston, Virginia, and her two children. She is also survived by her sister Barbara Sieck in Edmond, Oklahoma, and Patricia Unger in Phoenix, Arizona; as well as her first husband Timothy Anderson in Lincoln, Nebraska, and her second husband David Hanners in Springfield, Illinois.

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