The fourth member of the Fitzpatrick family to sit in the publisher’s chair at the Olean Times Herald — carrying on a family legacy in newspapers that reached back a century — has died.
William B. Fitzpatrick, 70, of Hilton Head, S.C., passed away after a battle with cancer, friends and former co-workers learned Thursday.
Fitzpatrick, whose great-grandfather, M.G. Fitzpatrick, purchased the Times Publishing Co. in 1911, was named interim publisher of the Times Herald in December 2004, taking over when former publisher Roy Biondi left to direct a group of newspapers in the Kansas City, Mo.
Fitzpatrick was named publisher in May of 2005, taking the office that his grandfather first occupied when the Times Herald moved its operations to the building at 639 Norton Drive. He retired in October 2007, after 36 years, savoring the increased time he could spend with his family and on his golf game.
Fitzpatrick’s work in the family business began in 1966, before he left for college, in subscription sales. After graduating from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, he came back in 1971 as a management trainee. He was an assistant district manager of circulation and worked for six months each in the composing and press rooms before a job opened up in the business office. He rose to vice president and controller by the later 1970s.
He was serving as chief financial officer of the Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. when he was appointed interim publisher of the Times Herald.
“I was saddened to hear of Bill’s death, having worked with him closely for a number of years,” said John Satterwhite, president and chief executive officer of Bradford Publishing, which has owned the Times Herald since 2000. “His work as CFO of Bradford Publishing Co. and as publisher of the Times Herald was invaluable to me. It was always enjoyable to meet and discuss various aspects of business with him and, coming from a multi-generation newspaper family, increased his historical perspective.”
Jim Bonn, the current publisher of the Times Herald and chief operating officer of Bradford Publishing, took over when Fitzpatrick retired in 2007.
“While I worked with Bill for a short period of time, it was very apparent that he possessed a great wit and outlook on all things,” Bonn said. “I appreciate the discussions that we were able to have on work, golf and skiing. He was a wonderful individual and I was grateful for the chance to know and work with such a nice guy. Our thoughts and prayers go out for him and his family.”
Jim Eckstrom, executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing’s group of newspapers, recalls how welcoming and helpful Fitzpatrick was when Eckstrom came over from the longtime rival Bradford Era as the new managing editor of the Times Herald in August 2001.
“I really respected Bill and Wiz (John Fitzpatrick, Bill’s brother and the longtime foreman of the Times Herald’s pressroom) and their dedication to the paper and the community,” Eckstrom said. “In that time even Grey Fitzpatrick (Bill and John’s father and third-generation chief of the Times Herald) had the occasional presence in the building and it was truly something to come to understand what the Fitzpatrick legacy meant.”
As mentioned, M.G. Fitzpatrick was publisher of the Olean Evening Times beginning in 1911; in 1932, the Times bought its cross-town rival, the Olean Evening Herald, and merged the papers. M.G. was followed by his son, E. Boyd Fitzpatrick, who was in turn followed by Grey in leadership of the paper.
The Fitzpatricks sold the Times Herald to Thomson Newspapers in 1988. Thomson sold the paper to American Publishing Co. in 1995, while American then sold the paper to Bradford Publishing.
In 2007, Bill said he was proud, as chief of the paper’s business operations, to have navigated so many changes to the Times Herald’s accounting system to align with three different corporations.
In addition to his love of golf, fishing and skiing, Fitzpatrick was also active in the community, serving as a former member of the Rotary Club and then holding various leadership posts with the Exchange Club of Olean. In 1992 he was honored as the club’s Exchangite of the Year. He was also active in local United Way drives, having been named Volunteer of the Year in 1982, and he served as chairman of fundraising drives to benefit the local SPCA.
In 2008, Fitzpatrick made a bid for Olean’s Common Council, challenging the late Roger Wangelin in the Republican primary in Ward 3. He lost to Wangelin by 20 votes.
It wasn’t long after that Fitzpatrick and his wife — he married the former Lynn Montie on Aug. 3, 1974 — moved to Hilton Head. In addition to his wife, Bill is survived by two daughters.
Funeral arrangements were not available as of Friday afternoon.