October Column Winner

Hruby legacy touches many

Ed Darling, The Duncan Banner

An era in Oklahoma newspapering and community service has, sadly, come to a haunting, abrupt and unexpected end.
What will now best be known as the Hruby legacy, cutshort by a senseless and bewildering series of events that snuffed out the unfinished lives of John, Tinker and Katherine Hruby, provided the people of Stephens County, of Duncan and of Marlow unquestionable support and involvement, sound leadership and a spirit of giving that led to improvements, progress and a quality of life envied often by other communities.
The Hrubys were good newspaper people who understood the impact of a highly personal business, whose daily actions influenced and affected people’s lives, who worked tirelessly to personify the news and make it relative, who sought to create and maintain a conduit through which meaningful conversations occurred, who pushed to make good places better and who shared the pride of an area we all lovingly call home.
They were good citizens.
They were good people.
That they are so suddenly gone continues a nightmare that has caused sleepless nights, a shocking dose of harsh reality that still borders on disbelief, a mystery wrapped in unkind questions of why and a reminder that bad things do indeed happen to good people.
It also challenges us to hug boldly the faith that will enable us to move forward.
The Hruby legacy is one of honor and dignity, starting with Harrington Wimberly, working its way through Al Hruby and now closing with John Hruby. It is a legacy that should be remembered with fondness and as one of accomplishment, of caring and of concern.
Wimberly was husband to Myrth, father to Janis and Mary Margaret, father-in-law to Al and grandfather to John and his sister Alison.
He set the tone for the family and created the mold that others sought to follow.
He was an early Oklahoma power broker, a man of statewide respect with friends in high places, a reputation for offering good advice and a willingness to make proper, stern and sometimes difficult decisions.
A Texan by birth, he was a University of Oklahoma graduate who went on to own The Altus News-Democrat before purchasing The Banner in 1963 and serving as its editor and publisher until his death in 1978.
He once ran for a seat in Congress but lost. He served as president of the Oklahoma Press Association in 1937 and for 10 years was president of the Oklahoma Newspaper Foundation.
He was president of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents in 1942 and was appointed to the Federal Power Commission by President Harry Truman.
Al Hruby was a native of Nebraska with a degree in geology from the University of Nebraska.
Following his discharge from the U.S. Navy in 1953, he attended the University of Oklahoma where he not only received a master’s degree in geology, he met Janis Wimberly. They married, spent 10 years exploring the world of geology, then moved to Duncan where Al joined The Banner.
He worked under Wimberly and Paul Fernald learning the newspaper business. He earned the associate publisher’s title, spent time, with Janis, researching and building the current facility and later assumed the editor and publisher position upon Wimberly’s death.
A good-hearted man appreciated by those who worked for him, he had a keen love for the Boy Scouts and Rotary, but actually preferred the background, accepting behind-the scenes personal roles and pledging newspaper support to a wide variety of projects and causes.
His allegiance switched from Nebraska to OU. He became a rabid Sooner fan and served as president of the school’s national alumni association.
Like Wimberly, he assumed leadership roles in the newspaper business. He served as president of the Oklahoma Newspaper Foundation in 1983-
84, was president of the Oklahoma Press Association in 1995 and served on the board for the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association.
Janis, whose University of Oklahoma degree is in journalism, was a devoted partner and a good sounding board, but stayed mostly in a supportive role. Al was an involved dad and an active grandfather.
For years, he looked forward to the day John would replace him at The Banner.
And it seemed obvious that John loved to please his dad whether he was wearing No. 56 as a reserve on the Duncan High football team, earning Eagle Scout recognition, learning to fly or starting a family.
He struggled early to find his niche, but got a business degree and found the true Joy of his life at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas. He and
Tinker married in 1989. John got an aviation degree at LSU. They moved to Duncan where John worked at The Banner and Tinker got another degree, in education at Cameron.
Like his dad, he spent time learning, department by department the newspaper business. When the family decided to sell The Banner, a provision was that John assume the publisher’s role, fulfilling his dad’s dream.
The corporate world, frankly, wasn’t of John’s liking.
He left, spent time working for Stim Lab Corp., earned a master’s degree in business at OU and re-entered the newspaper business in 2007, purchasing
The Marlow Review and repeating many of his dad’s attributes.
He, too, preferred the background, pushing his employees into community roles as the face of the paper. With Tinker as his enthusiastic partner, he sought quality in its product, involvement in worthwhile and important projects and regularly said “yes” whenever there was a need.
Co-workers called him a friend instead of a boss, a patient teacher, a dedicated professional and a quiet, unassuming, community leader.
He loved photography, embraced his Eagle Scout heritage, backed warmly the Stephens County Humane Society and helped many whose names will never be known.
John, predictably, was becoming more and more active in the Oklahoma Press Association. He was vice president of the Oklahoma Newspaper
Foundation Board of Trustees and was close to becoming a third generation president. He hoped also to follow in the large footsteps of his grandfather and dad as president of the Oklahoma Press Association.
That now, of course, will not happen.
Instead, as we brush away the tears and comfort each other in a sorrow that seems so unnecessary, we are left with a deep and painful void, with memories of our good friends, with unfulfilled hopes and promises and visions of what might have been.
Knowing them has been a blessing.

 

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