William J. Pape II, longtime editor and publisher of the Republican-American, The Sunday Republican, and the Southington, Bristol, and Plainville Observers, died April 20 at 87. Many words aptly describe Mr. Pape, but foremost among them is “dedicated.”
Mr. Pape was editor and publisher from 1972 to 2017, and editor from 2017 until his death. He was the publisher of the Southington Observer since it was purchased from the Urillo family in July 2000. Under his leadership, the company launched both the Bristol and Plainville editions.
Mr. Pape followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as the leader of Waterbury’s daily newspaper. Mr. Pape firmly believed the task of a newspaper and its staff is to look out for the interests of the public. He repeatedly stressed to his news and editorial staffs that they were to focus intently on bringing to light raw deals for taxpayers, and incompetence by public employees at all levels.
Under the guidance of Mr. Pape, the newspapers’ editorial pages espoused pragmatically conservative views on a range of issues. This is especially noteworthy in light of Connecticut’s status as a decidedly liberal state. Yet he insisted on a “wall of separation” between the editorial and news departments.
A tireless champion of the people’s right to information about their government, Mr. Pape was willing to take matters to court if necessary. In 2003, he received the Deane C. Avery Award from The (New London) Day. At the time, Gary Farrugia, then editor and publisher of The Day, told the Republican-American Mr. Pape received the award on the basis of his “career-long leadership in the fight for freedom of information in Connecticut.”
Mr. Pape witnessed many changes in the newspaper industry. When he took the helm in Waterbury, he published the morning Waterbury Republican and the afternoon Waterbury American, as well as The Sunday Republican. The daily papers merged in 1990 to become the morning Republican- American.
Throughout, Mr. Pape was committed to a locally owned and operated news organization. This is especially remarkable now, when so many newspapers have closed or come under corporate control.
One cannot understate Mr. Pape’s emphasis on giving back to the community. For 50 years, he and his newspapers have supported the Greater Waterbury Campership Fund, which helps local children attend summer camp. “It is an organization that epitomized Pape’s belief that any child, given the right circumstances, was capable of overcoming obstacles of birth,” The Sunday Republican reported April 21. Among other entities Mr. Pape supported are the United Way of Greater Waterbury, Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury, and the Children’s Community School. He was a strong proponent of Catholic education.
In editorializing on the March 3, 1972 death of Mr. Pape’s father and predecessor, William B. Pape, the Waterbury Republican noted, “Most of all, Mr. Pape was a gentleman. His dealings with everyone— mployee, customer, salesman, friend even political foe—were always conducted with the utmost of propriety. The Pape family, his wide circle of friends, this city, and especially these newspapers will miss the gentlemanly example of integrity and humility which he set.” These words apply in equal measure to William J. Pape II. May he rest in peace, and may his legacy continue.
Republican-American, Step Saver-Observer
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.