NORFOLK — Emil W. Reutzel Jr., the retired editor of the Norfolk Daily News, died Saturday at age 97 at his home in Coronado, California.
Reutzel was editor of the Daily News for more than 30 years, from 1962 to 1993, and was also the publisher and president of several weekly newspapers in northeast Nebraska for many years.
Bill Huse, publisher of the Daily News, said, “Emil was a man who epitomized a lot of what that great generation was all about — hard work, commitment, perseverance, honor and excellence.”
Kent Warneke, who succeeded Reutzel as editor, said his predecessor was a skilled journalist who cared about the communities and readers he served.
“His extensive civic involvement was testament to that,” he said. “His commitment to community journalism knew no bounds.”
Just one example of that dedication was that after his retirement, Reutzel continued to serve as a contributing editor until last year.
“Physically, he was dealing with some challenges, but his mind was as sharp as ever,” Warneke said. “Phone conversations with him were always a highlight.”
Reutzel served in the U.S. Navy in World War II as an intelligence officer with the amphibious forces in the Pacific, having trained with the U.S. Navy Scouts and Raiders, a volunteer group. In the early 1950s, he served in the Navy Reserve as an air intelligence officer.
His involvement in newspapers began in 1946, when he became publisher and editor of the Neligh News, a post he held until 1954.
Before Reutzel came to the Daily News in 1961, he spent almost seven years in Washington, D.C., working for the federal government. Initially, he served as an assistant to the then-Civil Defense Administrator Val Peterson, a former Nebraska governor. He later served as an assistant to the director of the Office of Civil Defense Mobilization in the Executive Office of the President. During this period, he served as the staff assistant handling matters concerning President Dwight Eisenhower’s Cabinet.
Until 1973, he served as president of the News Publishing Co. of Neligh, which operated weekly newspapers in Plainview, Creighton and Wymore. He was named to the Nebraska Journalism Hall of Fame in 1998.
His civic involvement was both local and statewide.
He served as president of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and the Nebraska Press Association. He was a member of the former Lutheran Community Hospital’s advisory board in Norfolk and served on the chamber’s Action Council for more than 30 years.
He also served as a trustee of the University of Nebraska Foundation for many years, including serving as foundation chairman in the late 1980s.
Born April 10, 1923, he graduated from Neligh High School and attended the University of Nebraska from 1941 to 1943. After his service in World War II, he received an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University.
He married Chloe Campbell of Aberdeen, South Dakota, on Nov. 18, 1944. She died earlier this year at age 97.
Reutzel is survived by two daughters, Romney Olson (and husband William) of Lincoln, and Sarah Travis Lee (and husband Michael) of Laguna Hills, California; four grandsons; and seven great-grandchildren.
Private graveside services will be held later.
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