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Communication Hall of Fame honors Funk
By Steve Berentson
Special to the News-Times
Former Whidbey News-Times publisher Wallie Funk was joined by family and friends Thursday as one of six individuals inducted into the University of Washington Communication Alumni Hall of Fame.
Funk, who served this community as co-publisher with partner John Webber from 1965 to 1987, was described by fellow alum Neil McReynolds as “a significant contributor” not only to the communities he served, but also as “a role model” to fellow journalists and leaders throughout the Northwest.
McReynolds’ relationship with Funk dates to McReynolds’ years as reporter and editor at the Bellevue American and then as press secretary to Gov. Dan Evans. He suggested Funk was “a great fit” for Department of Communication honors focused on “professionalism and significant contributions to community.”
David Domke, interim chairman of the U.W. Department of Communication, said of Funk and five others being inducted into the Hall of Fame: “You have honored us with the work you have done. You have made us better, you have challenged us, so to spend a few hours with you tonight is a real privilege for us.”
Funk, an Anacortes native and World War II veteran, met Webber in a fraternity at the U.W. Soon after graduation the two purchased the Anacortes American, which they owned from 1950-61. They purchased Whidbey Press from Glenn and Phyllis Smith in 1965 and published the News-Times, the South Whidbey Record and the NAS Whidbey Crosswind until selling to current publisher David Black in 1987. Funk continued to serve the newspaper as writer and photographer until 2002.
Funk was recognized as a community activist whose observations and opinions found their way into the community through articles, editorials and a popular News-Times column titled “The Fish Wrapper.” In addition to his roles as editor and publisher, Funk was a highly visible photojournalist, rarely traveling anywhere without his camera. His news photos ranged in subject matter from island classrooms and athletic venues to U.S. Navy facilities and the White House, where he photographed several presidents beginning with Richard Nixon. Much of his photojournalism collection is now archived at Western Washington University.
“I wanted to make my community newspaper something that was relevant also to the world outside,” Funk told his audience. “I know that I did not make the wrong choice when I decided not only to go into journalism, but to be a country journalist trying to reflect great things in our nation through the columns of our newspaper.”
In addition to sons Mark and Carl, Funk was joined at the Hall of Fame event by an Oak Harbor contingent including former Mayor Al Koetje and local bank executive Bruce Van Tassel. Also present were former Whidbey Press employees Mavis “Chic” Schulle, Sandy Carrothers and several former news staffers. Fellow Hall of Fame inductee Mary Daheim, author of more than 50 books, noted that her career included a stint working for Funk in Anacortes.
Among past Hall of Fame inductees who congratulated Funk at the event was Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Nalder, an investigative journalist who started his career as a reporter and editor at the Whidbey News-Times. He was quoted as saying: “Journalism in Washington State is much better because of Wallie Funk.”
State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen and Anacortes Mayor Dean Maxwell also made the trip to the U.W. campus to honor their friend.
In addition to Funk, 2008 Communication Alumni Hall of Fame inductees were Mayumi Tsutakawa, Stanton Patty, Jerry Hoeck, Mary Daheim and the late Donald Wulff.
Anacortes resident Steve Berentson was a reporter for the Whidbey News-Times during Wallie Funk’s tenure as editor and publisher.