Emil W. Reutzel, Jr. – the distinguished retired editor of the Norfolk Daily News – died Saturday, Sept. 26, at the age of 97 at his home in Coronado, Calif.
Private graveside services will be held at a later date.
Reutzel served as editor of the Daily News for more than 30 years, from 1962 to 1993, and also was 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 of the Norfolk newspaper, said his predecessor was a skilled journalist who cared about the communities and readers he served. “His extensive civic involvement was testament to that,” Warneke said. “His commitment to community journalism knew no bounds.”
Just one example of that dedication was that Reutzel continued as a contributing editor at the Daily News for several decades after his retirement until last year at the age of 96. “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 came to the Daily News from Washington, D.C., in 1961, where he had served in the federal government for nearly seven years. Initially, he served as an assistant to the then-Civil Defense Administrator Val Peterson, a former governor of Nebraska. 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.
He 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 was active in the Naval Reserves as an air intelligence officer.
His involvement in newspapers began in 1946 when he served as publisher and editor of the Neligh News to 1954. He continued that newspaper involvement until 1973 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 on a local and statewide basis.
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. He was the first outstate chairman of that organization and received the Foundation’s Perry Branch award for volunteer service in 1983. Despite not being a graduate, he was president of the University of Nebraska Alumni Association and received its Distinguished Service Award in 1977 and its Distinguished Achievement Award in 1994.
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 in Evanston, Ill.
He married the former Chloe Campbell of Aberdeen, S.D., on Nov. 18, 1944. She taught in Aberdeen while her husband was serving in the military, with their savings making possible the 1946 purchase of the Neligh News. She died earlier this year at the age of 97. They moved on a full-time basis to Coronado, Calif., upon his retirement.
Reutzel is survived by two daughters, Romney Olson and her husband, William, of Lincoln, and Sarah Travis Lee and her husband, Michael, of Laguna Hills, Calif., as well as four grandsons – Quinn Olson, Scott Olson, Cameron Lee and McAllister Lee – and seven great-grandchildren.
Expressions of condolence can be mailed to Romney Olson at 4503 Dryden Place, Lincoln, NE 68516.