Wallie Funk to be honored by UW

People who know him will tell you the recognition is well deserved, if a little late. His prolific career in journalism, photography and as a community activist has ensured Wallie Funk a place in history.

His world travels behind him, he and wife Mary Ann enjoy a quiet life near Anacortes, but that may be about to change with news of his pending induction into the University of Washington Department of Communication Hall of Fame this fall.

Funk is a 1948 graduate of the U.W. Past inductees have used such words as “overwhelmed” and “gratified” in describing what it means to earn such an honor. In his own own words, Funk said, “It’s an incredibly personal experience. You live so long and then something like this.” His voice trailed off. “I might get emotional.”

When you think of it, Funk really has done incredible things. Jerry Baldasty, professor and chair of the U.W. Department of Communication, said, “It’s not enough just to have had a great job or great career. We honor people in our hall of fame who have worked for the public good, as journalists, scholars, public servants, mentors, activists, advocates, leaders.”

What makes Funk stand out is his unwavering dedication to independent community newspaper publishing. He and his business partner and college buddy John Webber co-owned, managed, edited and published three independent newspapers: The Whidbey News-Times, the Anacortes American and the South Whidbey Record. He recalls the excitement of hearing the presses start every week.

They purchased the struggling Anacortes American in 1950. They had $10 between them. The town was depressed and a professor told him Anacortes was the boneyard of Washington State journalism, but Funk loves a challenge.

Jack Durnton, current publisher of the Anacortes American, said, “It’s inspiring the passion that he’s brought to improving his community.” After selling the American, Funk and Webber went to Oak Harbor where they published the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record until 1989.

“In my 25 years in Oak Harbor, the greatest years were working with Whidbey Playhouse, Oak Harbor Navy League Chapter and Coupeville Historical Museum,” Funk said. “During my Navy League tenure, the local council won national Navy League Council of the Year awards three years in a row. And Whidbey Playhouse is still going strong.”

Oak Harbor is also where Funk helped young journalists get their start. Eric Nalder, U.W. ‘68, was one. Today he is an investigative reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Steve Berentson, U.W. ‘75, said Funk was always loyal to his staff. He gave young people who worked for him the responsibility to make decisions. Scott Wilson, U.W. ‘77, today publisher of the Port Townsend Leader, remembered Funk as “unafraid to take things on.”

Some consider Funk a living legend. And to this day, newspapering still stirs his blood.

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