Imperial Valley Newsman, John Richard (Dick) Fitch, Dies

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Dick Fitch
Dick Fitch

 

A Valley tribute will be held in October for John Richard (Dick) Fitch who died in Kerrville, Texas, June 26.

Private family services will be in Kerrville, Texas. In lieu of flowers, donations in Fitch’s name may be made to the Kiwanis International Foundation in care of the El Centro Kiwanis Club, P.O. Box 362, El Centro, Ca. 92244.

A man of many interests, Fitch was foremost a newspaper man. He was in the newspaper and publishing business for more than 48 years.

He was a newspaper editor and publisher with over 36 years serving the Imperial Valley Press. He retired on September 30, 1996. Fitch was a long time member and director of the California Newspaper Publishers Association and served a record-setting nine consecutive years as chairman of the legal affairs committee.

He also was a past president of the El Centro Chamber of Commerce and was the founding president of the Imperial County Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) which helped locate two prisons and a General Dynamics facility to Imperial County. REDI was a precursor of what is today the Imperial Valley Economic Development Commission.

A strong believer in giving back, Fitch was a member of two service organizations — Kiwanis and Rotary. He was twice named Kiwanian of the Year of the Kiwanis Club of El Centro. He served as a director in each organization and was a past president and past distinguished lieutenant governor in Kiwanis. He was a member of the Kerrville (Texas) Noon Rotary at the time of his death. He accumulated more than 46 years of perfect attendance between the two organizations.

In his newspaper career, Fitch met Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Fitch often advised men not to have their photo taken with Reagan citing that the former president was so handsome he made others, including Fitch, look bad. As a boy, Fitch watched and listened as Harry Truman campaigned from the back of a train during a stop in Clarksburg, W. Va.

After retiring, Fitch authored and published four children’s books. He printed limited numbers of his books as he intended them mainly as eBooks. Fitch believed strongly that digital books would grow in popularity. When his first book went on Amazon, only two percent of books were selling as eBooks. Today, over 20 per cent of all books sold are digital.

In Kerrville, where Fitch lived at the time of his death, he would occasionally read his stories to gatherings of students at area schools when invited. Publishing his books, he partnered with former Imperial Valley Press illustrator/artist Margaret Silva-Chairez, now of San Diego, and credited her with making the books graphically pleasing to children. He often said her illustrations were more important to the books than the words he wrote.

Citing he was an absolute failure at “Retirement 101”, Fitch took on the duties of Director of Newspapers in Education at the Kerrville Daily Times in June, 2006, a part-time position he held until his death. He jokingly referred to himself as a “recycled publisher”. He grew that department and took it electronic almost immediately after beginning his employment at the Times. He worked with over 300 educators each year via the internet and put approximately 1600 newspapers daily into area classrooms.

In September, 2006, he started and managed a Teacher of the Month recognition program.

He also produced an annual coloring book and coloring contest for children through fifth grade which culminated each year with a “Celebration of Winners” ceremony. Fitch would present 45 awards to children of various ages who were judged to be winners. The contest would receive over 1,000 entries each year.

He was in the U. S. Marine Corps reserve as a high school student and upon graduating   enlisted in and served four years in the U. S. Air Force with tours in Chandler, AZ; Tokyo, Japan; and Waco, Texas. He was with the Pacific Stars & Stripes newspaper in Tokyo for two years where he was an artist/illustrator and compositor.

In Tokyo, Fitch joined the Meji Players Theatre and had major roles in Rain and The Drunkard. He also was in several one-act plays. On nine occasions, he participated in Kiwanis Kapers, a variety show performed three nights every three years, over many years, as a major fund-raising event for the Kiwanis Club of El Centro.

Fitch attended Baylor University, and was both a student and a part-time instructor at Imperial Valley College.

In retirement, Fitch transitioned from a horseman to a classic car enthusiast. In his lifetime he owned nearly 100 cars, many of them collectibles. He was a member of five car clubs, two in Arizona and three in Texas. He served in various capacities: president, vice president, tour master, bulletin editor and web master.

Fitch’s other interests included collecting a complete first edition set of books written by turn-of-the-century author, Harold Bell Wright, as well as gardening and collecting art — mostly western.

Fitch is survived by his wife, Dr. Diane Fitch, five children: Joanne Girkins, Troy Fitch, Victoria Dawson, Valerie Segraves and Megan Fitch, Michelle Macklin their spouses, and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren, all deeply loved by Fitch.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I just cut out a bit of the editorial page from the Brawley News 1980 which had wrapped one of my mother’s dishes from the trunk. It listed “Richard (Dick) Fitch publisher and editor.” I have it in an envelope for the family now, though I’d planned on a personal letter to Dick who had just visited our Valley for a fellow colleague’s funeral. My mother, Neva Burton, dummied the Brawley News and worked advertising for it in Brawley, when young Dick joined the staff also working advertising. Mom, while alive, followed his rise to the top, and she respected him a great deal. He was a gentleman and a professional in all he did.

    • Thank you for your kind words and sharing about our father.
      We miss him so much.

      Best regards,
      Joanne Girkins (daughter)

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