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A Kansas cowboy/newspaper guy

By Staff | Jun 22, 2020

I lost another dear old friend recently. And, of course, by lost, I mean that he died.

Our readers of the Faribault County Register probably didn’t know my friend Jack Webster, and probably have never even heard of him, but please indulge me while I tell you about this guy.

At times during the years we knew each other he was my boss. At other times I was his boss. We were business partners for a number of years and bought some newspapers together.

Jack is also the guy who taught me how to bowl, smoke cigars, and is the person who talked me into joining Lions and also convinced me I should be brave and ask my now wife out on a first date, among many other things.

Here is the story.

I first met Jack in June of 1971, about 49 years ago. I was 20 years old and a student at Mankato State. He was 37 years old and living in Watervile.

I had taken a job as the summer intern at the Lake Region Life newspaper in Waterville. I had been hired by publisher Allan Wilcox, and Jack became my boss.

Jack was sort of the “jack” of all trades at the Lake Region Life. He wrote some stories (especially sports) and a column for it, sold ads, pasted up the paper, took it to the printer, did the commercial printing and just about anything else that needed to be done.

I became his assistant. He taught me how to do just about everything that had to do with creating a weekly newspaper.

You see, I was a hot shot journalism student at MSU, and I knew all about how to properly write a story, but boy, I didn’t know sic ’em about actually creating a newspaper.

Jack taught me that. I was writing stories, selling ads, working with him on Monday nights pasting the paper up and then even addressing the printed copies in the back room on Tuesdays and hauling them to the post office.

I learned a lot that summer about producing a newspaper…and I learned a few other things as well not all good.

For instance, on Monday nights, after the ladies who worked at the newspaper went home, Jack and I stayed and worked late and were known to have a cigar in the office when we got close to being done.

Then Allan, Jack and I and another person formed a corporation in December of 1972 and bought the newspaper in Enderlin, North Dakota. We took it over in February of 1973 and my wife Pam and I ran it. We sold it in 1977 and moved back to Waterville when we had the chance to buy into the Lake Region Life and Elysian Enterprise with Allan Wilcox.

I became publisher and thus became Jack’s boss…sort of, anyway.

Jack was originally from Kansas, had met Allan while both were in the Navy, and was famous for his handlebar mustache and cowboy boots. And for being quite a character and being easy going.

Jack was a heckuva good bowler and he talked me into sponsoring the Lake Region Life bowling team and even being on the team. It was a pretty darn good team, despite the fact I was on it. Jack’s score held up my weak efforts.

Jack was a super dedicated Lions Club member, and even did a bike ride around southern Minnesota to raise funds for the Lions Sight/Hearing Center each year. He taught me by example how it was important to do things for your fellow man.

Allan, Jack and I (and always a fourth partner) started buying a newspaper every summer somewhere. We ended with a few in North Dakota, a couple in Texas and one in Missouri, Kansas, and well, you get the idea. Always in small towns, and always a newspaper that was run down and needed to be built back up.

Eventually we quit and split them up and I moved on. I sold my small interest in the Waterville and Elysian newspapers to Jack, and Allan sold his majority ownership to Jack, as well.

Jack then owned and ran the newspaper he had started working at in 1957 when Allan talked him into coming to Minnesota after both got out of the Navy. In 2008 Jack was honored by the Minnesota Newspaper Association for his 50 years of working in this crazy business. Eventually Jack retired and sold the Waterville and Elysian newspapers to another friend of mine, Chuck Wann, owner of the newspaper in New Prague.

As you can tell, I have a lot of fond memories of Jack Webster, and a lot of stories about him from the “old days.”

One of my favorites was when my oldest son Nate (now 43) was a few years old and running around the Waterville newspaper office while Jack and I worked on that week’s edition. Jack couldn’t stand the distraction anymore and picked Nate up and plunked him down in a trash can half full of paper and told Nate to sit still and be quiet.

And Nate did. Just sat there in the trash can and stared at Jack, eyes wide.

I couldn’t stop laughing.

Thanks for all the life lessons, Jack. Including some fun parenting tips.