Two veterans of the North Dakota newspaper profession were honored at a special luncheon Friday, June 29, a celebratory extension of the original awarding of the honors by the North Dakota Newspaper Association at their milestone 125th annual convention in May.
Donovan Witham, founder of the West Fargo Pioneer, and the late Wayne Lubenow, a longtime reporter and columnist, were singled out with Distinguished Service Awards which are presented to persons who have made a lasting contribution to the North Dakota newspaper industry.
Witham and his daughter and son-in-law, Kathy and Brad Brinkman, and granddaughter, Morgan, were in attendance for acceptance of the award along with Lubenow's widow, Rosie.
A variety of other friends and former associates were on-hand to join in the congratulatory message.
Ironically, Witham's longtime colleague and friend Don Gackle had planned the special gathering Friday and was unable to attend after being hospitalized. Sadly, word was received Monday from the North Dakota Newspaper Association office that Gackle had passed away Sunday evening.
Witham and his late wife Betty started the West Fargo Pioneer in 1967 and operated the weekly newspaper, and other publications including the popular free circulation shopper The Midweek Eagle until their retirement in 2004, at which time Forum Communications Company purchased the business.
Witham continued his newspaper connection with a generous donation to the North Dakota Newspaper Association Education Foundation that established the Donovan and Betty Witham Excellence in Newspapers Symposiums.
Witham was a longtime West Fargo resident but relocated to Fargo after Betty's death in March.of 2012.
Lubenow began his professional career at The Bismarck Tribune, and was a reporter and columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead for many years. In 1971, he began writing feature stories and columns for weekly newspapers in North Dakota, which he continued until his death in 1991. His wife, Rosie, continues to live in Fargo.
Both Witham and Rosie expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the distinguished service award recognition, thanking everyone who attended the Friday luncheon event and who through the years had offered resources and support.
The NDNA membership is comprised of 80 weekly and 10 daily newspapers in North Dakota.