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Ernie Neufeld a 'trend-setter', 'beacon of light'

Former Review publisher passes

Former Weyburn Review publisher Ernie Neufeld, who was hailed as a trend-setter and a beacon of light for the community newspaper publishing industry in Canada, passed away on Saturday at the age of 82 years with his family by his side.Born on Nov. 17, 1927, in Winnipeg, his family moved to Steinbach, Manitoba in 1928 where he was raised and educated, and where he began his love affair with printing and the newspaper industry when he went to work for the Steinbach Post in December of 1942 at the age of 15.In 1948, he moved to Vancouver to work in job printing for the Vancouver Sun, followed by stints at the Victoria Times, then at newspapers in Seattle, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Sacramento, Calif.; El Paso and Amarillo, Texas; St. Louis, Mo.; Des Moines, Iowa; Minneapolis, Minn.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Chicago, Ill., and Detroit, Mich.Ernie married Irene Derksen in September of 1950, after which they moved to Toronto where he worked mainly for Moore Business Forms, the Toronto Globe and Mail and Toronto Star, and then they moved to Steinbach to work at Derksen Printers. Two years later, he decided to put his knowledge and expertise of the newspaper business to work for him as he bought the Weyburn Review from Edward Quick, which was announced in the July 3, 1958 issue. As Ernie recalled in his memoirs about that time, he had lofty goals for taking over the Review.On the morning that our takeover of the paper was announced to the staff, I called a little meeting and declared my intention of turning the Review into the best weekly newspaper in Canada. I am sure my voice rang with sincerity. I think the staff thought I was talking about doing it within a year, and I caught the incredulous looks exchanged. Actually, I was modest enough to expect the transformation to take two or even three years. By best, I meant winning the national Better Newspapers Competition for our circulation class.Ernie and his staff made good on his announced intentions, as in 1983 and 1984, and again in 1987, the Review won the best all-round competition for their circulation class in the Canadian Community Newspapers Association (CCNA). In addition, Ernies newspaper won an award for publishing the Best Centennial Edition in Canada, produced to celebrate Canadas Centennial in 1967; the competition was open to all weeklies in the country, and his prize was a library of 100 Canadian books. His involvement with the newspaper industry at the national level included serving a term as president of the CCNA in 1975-76; at the provincial level, he was president of the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association in 1965-66, and was a director of both organizations. In 1995, Ernie was made an honourary life member of the CCNA.His reputation as a trend-setter and leader in the newspaper industry was solidified as in 1965, the Review became the first weekly newspaper in the province to be produced on its own two-unit web offset press, which replaced the traditional long-standing hot metal production method. The new presses allowed the Review to print the Centennial edition with full-colour photos.The paper continued to grow under Ernie and Irenes leadership. They moved to new quarters on Second Street, then into their present quarters at Ninth Street and East Avenue in May 1978. The press had expanded into four units, with a commercial printing division in the rear of the building, and by 2001 the press grew further to six units. In 1990, he published an anthology of his memoirs, columns, editorials and features with the book, Ernestly! Happy Yesterdays, in which he shared some of his thoughts and experiences about being a publisher, including these thoughts about the satisfaction of a job well-done:The quality of satisfaction of publishing a weekly newspaper lies not in big headlines and sensational pictures, but in the quiet excitement of being an integral part of a progressive community in a province we have learned to appreciate, a country we love, and a world we worry about. One of his memories was of meeting Tommy Douglas, then the premier of Saskatchewan: No more than two weeks after coming to Weyburn, I covered a meeting at which Premier Tommy Douglas was guest speaker. Someone introduced us and he almost bowled me over by remarking, Oh, yes, youre from Steinbach, arent you? (or words to that effect). This ability to remember things about people, and surprising and charming them with his knowledge was one of the acknowledged strengths of T.C. Douglas. In any case, since Weyburn was his constituency, it is hardly surprising that he made it his business to know about a change in the ownership of the local paper, and to acquaint himself to some extent with the new publishers background. For me, however, who had never been exposed to anything higher in the political hierarchy than a candidate glad-handing for votes, it was a milestone experience.He also shared his thoughts about his efforts to keep the Review at the forefront of computer technology, an effort that continues to the present day:Without regretting any of it, a highlight in a nightmarish sort of way of my 30-plus years of publishing will still be the year or two dominated by programming, the frustrations of finding solutions and trying to overcome error or malfunctions; evenings spent brooding about alternatives and dead-ends, near-sleepless nights with my mind trapped in computer loops. Sometimes the roadblock was as simple as a typographical error. The experience really was far from totally negative. Few things are so satisfying as finding a program statement or manoeuvre that accomplishes what for hours seemed impossible.Ernie was not only the owner and publisher of Weyburns newspaper-of-record, but he was an integral and involved member of the community.Over the years, he served as president of the Weyburn Chamber of Commerce in 1964; in 1965, he was appointed by the Minister of Health to an ad hoc committee on the resettlement of mental patients; in 1969, he was appointed as the Zone 1 chairman (southeast Sask.) for Saskatchewan Homecoming 71; also in 1970-71, he served as president of the Weyburn Rotary Club and he remained a devoted Rotarian until his death; in 1970, he served as campaign chairman of the Weyburn and District United Appeal, and in 1971 and 1972, served as vice president and president of the United Appeal.In 1974-1977, he served as a member of the Weyburn Jubilee Committee, to coordinate city, provincial and national jubilee celebrations; in 1987, he was appointed to the Saskatchewan Literacy Council by Minister of Education for a three-year period; in 1988, he was the keynote speaker at the official 75th anniversary celebration for the City of Weyburn. In his retirement years, Ernie loved to travel, read and work on his computer. He continued to walk two miles every day, attend church and city functions, Rotary, and coffee row. He had a passion for writing and continued to write his column for the Review until December 2008.At the time of his passing, he was working on the second part of his book, Ernestly!.In 1996, Ernie married Anne Dembeck of Toronto. They spent many years summering in Saskatchewan, and wintering in Toronto and travelling around the world.Following his diagnosis with cancer, Ernie chose to spend his remaining time in Weyburn near family and community.Ernie was predeceased by his wife Maria Irene (Derksen) Neufeld and is survived by his five children, Eric (Char Warkentin) Neufeld, Denise (Kevin) Bakken, Patricia (Darryl) Ward, Mary (Dave Evans) Neufeld, and Carrie (Scott Herriot) Neufeld, and by his 10 grandchildren: Brahm Neufeld, David Neufeld, Jamie Neufeld; Brooke (EJ Mounts) Bakken, Juddson Bakken, Drew Bakken; Amber (Jeremy Cleek) Ward; Foster Herriot, Flinn Herriot and Sloane Herriot.The funeral service will be held Friday, July 23, 2 p.m., at Grace United Church.In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Weyburn and District Hospital Foundation, Box 1416, Weyburn, Sask. S4H 3J9.