Wisconsin newspaper industry to memorialize five leaders

MADISON — The Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation (WNAF) will honor the memory of five former publishers during an upcoming ceremony in Eagle River.

The WNAF’s memorial pylon ceremony will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 25 at Trees For Tomorrow – 519 Sheridan St., Eagle River – to pay tribute to Wisconsin publishers who have died. A welcome reception will begin at 11 a.m.

The 2017 honorees are:

  • Michael Aubinger, former publisher of The Press of Ashwaubenon, Hobart and Howard-Suamico
  • Betty Lou Dansin Stewart, former co-publisher of the Orfordville Journal and Footville News
  • Donald W. Bearder, former publisher of the Lake Geneva Regional News
  • Noel Zander, former co-owner of the Brillion News
  • Marius Page Jr., former general manager of the Baraboo News Republic

The memorial pylon ceremony is open to the public and will be held as part of the WNAF’s 70th Annual Trees Retreat. Guests planning to attend lunch following the ceremony can register online.

The memorial pylon is located on the Trees For Tomorrow campus and includes the names of nearly 600 deceased publishers. It offers a space for family, friends and colleagues to pause and reflect on the contributions made by Wisconsin’s former publishers. Each year since 1962, names have been added to the pylon at a ceremony during the WNAF’s annual Trees Retreat.

The original idea for the memorial was to plant a tree in the WNA-owned Press Forest near Eagle River as a tribute to each deceased publisher. Within a short span of time, however, it became apparent that there would not be enough land available to carry the project beyond a few years, prompting the creation of the memorial pylon.

The WNAF dedicated a new granite memorial pylon at Trees For Tomorrow during the 2015 Trees Retreat. The granite monuments replaced the original wooden structure, which had displayed the names of publishers on press plates. The names had faded with time, however, warranting the creation of a more permanent tribute.

Biographies of each honoree follow.

Michael Aubinger

Michael Aubinger, 63, Ashwaubenon, former publisher of The Press – serving Ashwaubenon, Hobart and Howard-Suamico – died Thursday, March 30, 2017 while battling melanoma cancer.

He was born July 26, 1953. He grew up in Ashwaubenon, in the shadow of Lambeau Field, where he delivered the local newspaper. Aubinger was a graduate of Ashwaubenon High School and completed his undergraduate and some graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where he had a double-major in journalism and communications. While at Oshkosh, he met his future wife of 34 years, Annette.

The Ashwaubenon Press was founded in 1970 by Aubinger’s mother, Lois. Aubinger worked for the newspaper as a journalist until her death, when he became the owner, editor and publisher. The name of the newspaper was changed to The Press as Mike and Annette expanded its coverage area to include Hobart and Howard-Suamico. He also started Prestige Printing, sold the business and then started AM Communications, crafting and printing resumes.

Aubinger served as president of the Village of Ashwaubenon since 2009 and had announced a leave of absence to focus on his health shortly before his death. He had served on the Ashwaubenon School Board and was active in many community organizations.

Aubinger is survived by his wife, Annette.

Betty Lou Dansin Stewart

Betty Lou Dansin Stewart, 90, who published the Orfordville Journal and Footville News with her husband, George, died Oct. 4, 2016 at the Evansville Manor.

Stewart was born July 6, 1926 in Madison and graduated from the University of Wisconsin School of Journalism. She met George at UW-Madison and they were married in 1952. In 1954, they moved to Orfordville, where George worked in partnership with his father, Ward, to publish the Orfordville Journal and Footville News.

Stewart began her work with the newspapers following Ward’s death in 1961. Together, the Stewarts published the Orfordville Journal and Footville News until the newspapers ceased publication on Aug. 15, 2008, marking the 100th year of the Orfordville Journal and 92 years of ownership in the family.

Betty Lou and George spent their last years together in Orfordville, with George as Betty’s companion and caregiver until his death on June 24, 2013.

Donald W. Bearder

Donald W. Bearder, 81, former longtime publisher of the Lake Geneva Regional News, died July 6, 2015 at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee.

Bearder was born Dec. 5, 1933 in Waukesha and graduated from Lake Geneva High School in 1952. He earned a bachelor of science degree in community journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1956. Two years later, after serving in the U.S. Army, Bearder joined the Lake Geneva Regional News, which was owned by his father, A. M. Bearder. He married Judith M. Clark on Nov. 5, 1960.

Bearder primarily covered sports stories before he transitioned to the business side of the publication. In 1973, he purchased the Lake Geneva Regional News from his father, who had owned the paper since 1940, and ran the publication for more than three decades. In 1998, he relinquished his role as publisher and handed the duty to his son, Doug. The Regional News was sold to Kenosha-based United Communications Corp. in 1999.

Bearder is survived by his wife, Judith, two sons and two grandchildren.

Noel Zander

Noel Zander, 74, former co-owner of Zander Press, which publishes The Brillion News, died April 15, 2016 after battling cancer.

Zander graduated from Brillion High School in 1959 and began working for The Brillion News as a sports editor, a role he held for more than 20 years.

In 1967, Zander and his brother, Zane, purchased Zander Press Inc. from their parents, allowing them to become third-generation owners of the company. Zander then served as vice president in addition to his role as the News’ sports editor.

Zander was the co-owner of Zander Press with Zane until his retirement in 2005.

He is survived by his wife, Carla; one son; three step-children; and 10 grandchildren.

Marius Page Jr.

Marius “Curt” Page Jr., 85, former chief editor and general manager of the Baraboo News Republic, died Dec. 16, 2016.

Page was born in Baraboo on March 26, 1931. He was a 1949 graduate of Baraboo High School and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He graduated from UW-Madison in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a law degree in 1956.

Page was most known for his role as editor and general manager at the Baraboo News Republic, which was founded by his father. He was also an attorney and an accountant.

Page was very active in the community and was a member of several organizations.

He is survived by his wife, Helen; two children; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

About the Wisconsin Newspaper Association
The Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA) was established in 1853. Created by and for Wisconsin’s newspapers, WNA exists to strengthen the newspaper industry, enhance public understanding of the role of newspapers, and protect basic freedoms of press, speech and the free flow of information.

WNA is the single point-of-contact for working with newspapers in Wisconsin. In addition to serving 217 member newspapers, WNA serves advertisers through advertising placement programs with Targeted Advertising Services and additional clients through News Tracker, a media monitoring service.

About the WNA Foundation
The Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation is a not-for-profit organization created in 1980 to support programs that foster excellence in journalism, engage current and future newspaper leaders and invest in our communities. The foundation solicits, manages and disburses funds and other resources for the benefit of Wisconsin’s newspaper industry.

Help the WNA Foundation reach its goal
Thanks to the generosity of members and their families, the WNA Foundation been able to raise nearly $60,000 for the new granite memorial. But we still need your help in reaching our final goal to pay off the Pylon in its entirety. We hope you will consider a donation, no matter the amount, to this important historic marker that preserves the history of our industry’s leaders.

Donate to the WNA Memorial Pylon

James Debilzen
Communications Director
Wisconsin Newspaper Association
34 Schroeder Court, Suite 220
Madison, WI 53711