|Birth: ||Jun. 2, 1924|
|Death: ||Mar. 1, 2008|
William Fey Huffman, the Wisconsin journalist and media owner known for his engagement in a broad range of community issues and organizations supporting the environment, Wisconsin history and journalism, died March 1, 2008, at his home in Milwaukee after a long illness. He was 83. Bill, born June 2, 1924 in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, was the long-time owner and publisher of the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune and the owner of two radio stations, WFHR-AM and WWRW-FM in that city. He was also involved in the Wisconsin cranberry industry and for a time owned a cranberry marsh in Biron, affiliated with the Indian Trail and the Ocean Spray brands. These were businesses begun by his father, William Ferdinand Huffman.
Bill spent World War II in Europe as a French military intelligence interpreter with the U.S. Army Office of Strategic Services, leaving the military in late 1945 with the rank of corporal. His war experience greatly influenced his later beliefs, and he maintained a lifelong fluency in the French language. Following the war, Bill graduated in 1950 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Agricultural Journalism. At the University, Bill was president of the chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. And it was at the University that he met his future wife, Phyllis Rasmusson, of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a major in Home Economics Journalism, which was affiliated with Bill's major in the UW School of Agricultural and Life Sciences. They were married in 1949.
In 1950, upon his father's death, Bill joined the newspaper's staff. In the mid-1950s, Bill co-founded the Forward Communications Corporation with a group of central Wisconsin newspaper publishers, holding office as corporate treasurer and board member. The firm eventually expanded to 13 television and radio stations and one newspaper located throughout nine states. Bill's commitment to advancing the public interest was enduring. He was known for principled stands on a wide range of issues. He often wrote editorials for the Tribune, voicing early criticism of the war in Viet Nam and promoting issues such as protection of the environment. Asked to present a biography of himself to the Wisconsin Rapids Rotary Club in 1987, Bill, a Rotary participant, wryly told the group: "I wrote many newspaper editorials and was responsible for news articles and company policies that antagonized members of this club. I hope they will forgive me some day for all of those." As a journalist, he served as a president and treasurer of the Wisconsin Daily Newspaper League (now the Wisconsin Newspaper Association) during the 1950s. In that position he led a successful effort to establish a tough open public meetings law in Wisconsin, and helped to underwrite a new journalism school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a cranberry grower, he served as a president and board member of the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association. For these efforts, he was recognized by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1991, the School of Journalism awarded him the Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Service, describing Bill as "one of the most respected leaders of the Wisconsin newspaper and broadcast industries" because of his commitment to public affairs. In 1993, Bill received the Honorary Recognition Award from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences for facilitating news on "agriculture, family living and natural resources" in his media outlets.
Bill cast a wide humanitarian net; his philanthropic generosity was expansive, as was his great love for the history and the natural environment of the state of Wisconsin. And he believed firmly in the role of educated and activist citizens in a democratic government. A long-time member of the Board of Curators of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, he served as president from 1976 to 1979, and was designated a Curator Emeritus in 1998. Bill also chaired the Wisconsin American Revolution Bicentennial Commission in the mid 1970s, and co-chaired the fundraising campaign for Old World Wisconsin located in Eagle, Wisconsin, at 600 acres one of the premier outdoor living history museums in the United States. He participated for nearly 30 years as a director on the board of the Wisconsin Taxpayer's Alliance. Bill's fascination with Wisconsin's natural environment led him to a five year stint on the Board of Trustees of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. And during the 1970s, he served on the board of directors of Camp Manito-wish YMCA, which develops extensive wilderness programs for youths. Bill's altruistic impulses extended to his community of Wisconsin Rapids as well. His faith led him to leadership positions within the Congregational Church/United Church of Christ, and he chaired a campaign to build a new church facility there. Bill also served as the president of the board of the Riverview Hospital Association, helping to develop a new hospital, and he was a founding director of both the South Wood County Economic Development Corporation and the South Wood County YMCA. The Tribune also financed a new city park facility and established scholarships and awards for outstanding high school journalists. For these efforts, in 1965 Bill was awarded the Citizen of the Year award by the Wisconsin Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. At the time, he said, "If a fellow can get this for just doing his duty, what a wonderful world it would be if we all really tried. It has been a prayer of mine that I might return to the community what it has given to me, for I have been fortunate indeed." Bill sold his businesses in the mid-1980s, and he and Phyllis moved their residence from Wisconsin Rapids to both Milwaukee and New York City. Bill and Phyllis, who are members of Immanuel Presbyterian Church of Milwaukee, have significantly contributed to numerous Milwaukee and Wisconsin institutions, including the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, SHARP Literacy, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the United Performing Arts Fund and the University of Wisconsin Foundation, among others.
Thank you Corey so much for your sponsorship!
William Ferdinand Huffman (1895 - 1949)
Alcinda Louise Fey Huffman (1898 - 1977)
Phyllis Jean Rasmusson Huffman (1926 - 2015)*
Polly Huffman Ullrich (1950 - 2011)*
Forest Hill Cemetery
Plot: Block 82
Created by: Catharine
Record added: Mar 01, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 24975901